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THORNLEY COLTON 

BLIND DETECTIVE 



I 



Thornley Colton 

BLIND DETECTIVE 

BY 

CLINTON H. STAGG 

AUTHOR OF "HIGH SPEED" 




NEW YORK 

G. HOWARD WATT 

558 MADISON AVE. 
1923 



Copyright, 1923, by 
G. HOWARD WATT 



Printed in the United States of America 



CONTENTS 



Page 

The First Problem — 

The Keyboard of Silence, ----- 7 

The Second Problem — 

Unto the Third Generation, ... - - 56 

The Third Problem — 

The Money Machines, ----- 94 

The Fourth Problem— 

The Flying Death, 130 

The Fifth Problem — 

The Thousand Facets of Fire, - - - - 168 

The Sixth Problem — 

The Gilded Glove, 209 

The Seventh Problem — 

The Kinging Goblets, 258 



The Eighth Problem — 

The Eye of the Seven Devils, - 301 



THORNLEY COLTON 

Blind Detective 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 

THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 
L 

Not often did mere man attract attention in the 
famous dining-room of the " Regal," but men and 
women alike, who were seated near the East Arch- 
way, raised their eyes to stare at the man who 
stood in the doorway, calmly surveying them. The 
smoke-glass, tortoise-shell library spectacles, which 
made of his eyes two great circles of dull brown, 
brought out the whiteness of the face strikingly. 
The nose, with its delicately sensitive nostrils, was 
thin and straight ; the lips, now curved in a smile, 
somehow gave one the impression that, released by 
the mind, they would suddenly spring back to their 
accustomed thin, straight line. For a smile seemed 
out of place on that pale, masterful face, with its 
lean, cleft chin. The snow-white hair of silky 
fineness that curled away from the part to show 
the pink scalp underneath contrasted sharply with 
the sober black of the faultless dinner-coat that fell 
in just the proper folds from the broad shoulders 
and deep chest. 

The eyes of the girl at the sixth table seemed to 
be held, fascinated. The elder woman, who was 



8 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



with her, toyed with her salad and conformed to 
convention by stealing covert glances at the man 
in the archway, and the square-chinned, clean- 
looking young man who made the third of the party 
stared openly, unashamed ; but his eyes held not 
the other diners' rude questioning, nor yet the girl's 
frank fascination. 

" You are staring, Rhoda," rebuked the elder 
woman mildly. 

The girl turned her eyes with a little sigh. 

" What wonderful character there is in his face ! " 
she murmured. 

" He is a wonderful character," asserted the man, 
his face lighting up boyishly, his tone one of 
admiration. 

" You know him ? " Both asked it in a breath, 
eyes eager. 

" Yes. He is Thornley Colton, man about town, 
club member, musician, whose recreation is the 
solving of problems that baffle other men. It was 
he who found the murderer of President Parkins 
of the up-town National, and, when the crash came, 
secured me my position in the Berkley Trust." 

" A detective ? " The elder woman asked it ; 
the girl's eyes were again on Colton. 

" No." The man shook his head. " He jokingly 
calls himself a problemist, and accepts only those 
cases that he thinks will prove interesting, for the 
solving of them is merely his recreation. He takes 
no fees. The man with him is his secretary, Sydney 
Thames, whose name is pronounced like that of the 
river. He, too, is a remarkably handsome man, but 
he is never noticed when with Thornley Colton, 
except as his coal-black hair and eyes, and red 
cheeks, form a striking contrast to Colton." 

" I had not even noticed him," confessed the 
elder woman, as she glanced for the first time at 



TEE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 



9 



the slim young man of twenty-five or six, who stood 
at Colton's side, eyes apparently taking in every 
detail of the big dining-room. Then she remembered 
her duty as mentor. " You must not stare so rudely, 
Rhoda ! " she chided. 

" I don't think Mr. Colton minds the stare," the 
man said quietly. " He has been totally blind since 
birth, though many people refuse to believe it." 

" Blind ! " They both breathed it, in their voices 
the tender sympathy all women feel for the mis- 
fortunes of others. 

" He is coming," warned the elder woman un- 
necessarily. 

They had seen the head- waiter apparently apolo- 
gize to Colton, and step aside. The secretary had 
whispered a few words, and Thornley Colton, his 
slim stick held lightly and idly in his fingers, started 
down the aisle between the rows of tables, shoulders 
swung back, chin up, followed by Sydney Thames. 
The woman and the girl watched his approach with 
parted lips, in their eyes mother fear for his safety 
as he hurried toward them, stepping aside at exactly 
the proper moment to avoid a hurrying waiter, 
walking around the very much overdressed, stout 
woman whose chair projected a foot over the un- 
marked aisle line. As he neared their table, they 
saw the thin lips frame a smile of friendly greeting, 

" How do you do, Mr. Norris ? " His voice, rich, 
of wonderful musical timbre, seemed to thrill the 
girl with its kindliness and strength, as he stepped 
around her chair to shake hands with her escort. 
" Sydney saw you while we were waiting for our 
table." 

" Will you meet Miss Richmond ? " asked Norris, 
when he had answered the greeting in kind. Colton 
turned instantly to face the girl, his slim white 
hand, with its long, tapering fingers, outstretched. 



10 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



"It is a concession we of the darkness ask of 
every one," he apologized. 

Their hands met, the girl felt the warm grip, and 
her sensitive wrist seemed to feel a touch, light as 
the touch of wind-blown thistle-down, but it was 
gone instantly, and she knew it was but the tele- 
pathic thrill of the meeting palms. She murmured 
a commonplace, and bit her Hps in vexation, because 
it was a commonplace. The man before her seemed 
to call for more. 

" Your singing is wonderful, Miss Richmond," he 
declared enthusiastically. " Sydney and I have 
had orchestra seats three nights this week. You 
know, to me music must give the combined pleasures 
of painting, sculpture, architecture, and other 
beautiful things the average person doesn't even 
appreciate.' ' 

Her eyes expressed their pity, but her lips said 
only : " My mother, Mr. Colton." They shook 
hands across the table, Mrs. Richmond with a 
heartiness that was not part of the artificial code 
New York has fixed, he with a few words that 
brought a flush of pleasure to her faded cheeks. 

" Why didn't Mr. Thames stay ? " asked Norris 
curiously. " He hurried on as though he thought 
we were plague victims." 

" He usually does," smiled Colton. " He has a 
very curious fear. I'll tell you about it some 
time." 

" Why don't you drop into the bank and see me 
some day ? You haven't been in my tomb-like 
office for months. Miss Richmond and her mother 
saw me at work for a few minutes this afternoon. 
It compares very favourably with the dressing- 
rooms given to opera-singers, they say." 

" 1 should say so ! " laughed the girl. " If you 
can compare Persian rugs and mahogany with our 



\ 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 11 



cracked walls, and box-propped dressing-tables, and 
plugged gas-jets ! " 

" Men always do take the best," conceded Colton 
smilingly. Then he addressed Norris directly. 
" How is Simpson^ attending to business nowa- 
days % " 

" He has been away for a week. He came in 
this afternoon to amaze us with the news that he 
had just been married. He didn't have much to 
say about his wife, however, except that he was 
going to turn over a new leaf." 

" That's news ! " whistled Colton. " He never 
struck me as the marrying kind." 

" Nor any one else," laughed Norris, with a 
tender, significant glance at the girl across the table. 

" I'll have to look him up and congratulate him. 
Till we meet again, then." And with a pleasant- 
nod of parting to each of them, a touch of a chair 
leg with his slim stick, Colton hurried down the 
aisle to the small table in the far corner, where 
Sydney Thames was giving his order to the waiter. 
The serving-man responded to a friendly nod from 
Colton, closed his order tablet, and hurried away. 
Thornley took a cigarette from his case, scratched 
a match on the bronze box, and leaned comfortably 
back in his chair. 

" Some time, Sydney, your terrible fear of beauti- 
ful women is going to get me into a very embarras- 
sing position." He said it half seriously, half 
smilingly. ' 6 Instead of seventeen steps, it was but 
sixteen and a short half. If it hadn't been for 
Norris' s habit of nervously tapping his glass with 
his finger-tips, my outstretched hand would have 
gone back of his neck." 

" I thought I had figured it exactly ! " There 
was earnest contrition in the tone ; the sombre, 
black eyes showed the pain of the mistake. 



12 



TEE FIRST PROBLEM 



"It is forgotten," dismissed Colton. Then : 
" But you should have stopped, Sydney. Miss 
Richmond's personality is as remarkable as her 
singing, and her mother is so proud and happy she 
forgets to be embarrassed at the difference between 
Keokuk and the Regal. Norris is lucky, for she 

loves him, and he " The smiling lips needed 

no finishing words. 

" But she is already commanding two hundred 
dollars a week at the very beginning of her career, 
and Norris cannot be earning more than five 
thousand a year," protested Thames. 

" You poor boy ! " smiled Colton. " You'll 
never know women ; that susceptible heart of yours, 
which drives you away like a scared sheep whenever 
a beautiful woman approaches, will never be good 
for anything but pumping blood." 

" Thorn, don't I know my weakness ! " The 
tone was indescribably bitter. " I must keep away, 
though I'm starving for the society of good women. 
To meet one would be to fall in love, hopelessly, 
helplessly. I'd forget that I was a thing of shame, 
a brat picked up on the banks of the river that gave 
me the only name I know." 

Colton was instantly serious. " Starvation seems 
a peculiar cure for hunger," he mused. " But 

we have argued that so many times " Again 

the thin, expressive lips finished the sentence. 

Then came the waiter with a club sandwich for 
Thames and Colton's invariable after-theatre supper 
that was always ready when he came, and which 
he never needed to order ; two slices of graham 
bread covered with rich, red beef-blood gravy, and 
a bottle of mineral water. Colton's slim cane, hollow, 
and light as a feather, the slightest touch of which 
sent its warning to his supersensitive finger-tips, 
rested between his knees as he ate. 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 13 



Sydney Thames nibbled his sandwich absent- 
mindedly, eyes roving around the dining-room, now 
stopping at a gaudily-dressed dowager, now at an 
overpainted lady who smiled her fixed smile at the 
bull-necked man at her table, now at the circle- 
eyed girl who stabbed the cherry from her empty 
cocktail glass with a curved tine of her oyster fork ; 
but always coming back to the fresh, wholesomely 
beautiful face of Rhoda Richmond. Then the 
sombre eyes would light up ; for a beautiful face, 
to Sydney Thames, was more intoxicating than 
wine, and, to his highly sensitive nature, more 
dangerous. 

Colton pushed his plate aside as the other's eyes 
once more started their round of the dining-room. 

" The gods give gaudiness in recompense for the 
eye-sparkle they have taken, and the wrinkles they 
have given," Thornley Colton murmured quietly. 
" One must come to a New York restaurant to 
realize the true pathos of beauty." Colton's mood 
had been curiously serious since those few words 
at Norris's table. 

Thames did not answer, for no answer was 
needed. His wandering eyes had rested on a table 
to the left. 

" One often wonders," continued Colton, in that 
same musing, low-pitched voice, " why a stout 
woman, like that one two tables to our left, for 
instance, will suffer the tortures of her hereafter for 
the sake of drinking high balls in a tight, purple 
gown." 

Sydney had turned his eyes to stare at Colton, 
as he always did when the man who had picked 
him up as a bundle of baby-clothes on the banks 
of the Thames, twenty-five years before, made an 
observation of this kind. Many such had he heard, 
but never did they fail to startle him. 



12 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" It is forgotten," dismissed Colton. Then : 
" But you should have stopped, Sydney. Miss 
Richmond's personality is as remarkable as her 
singing, and her mother is so proud and happy she 
forgets to be embarrassed at the difference between 
Keokuk and the Regal. Norris is lucky, for she 

loves him, and he " The smiling lips needed 

no finishing words. 

" But she is already commanding two hundred 
dollars a week at the very beginning of her career, 
and Norris cannot be earning more than five 
thousand a year," protested Thames. 

"You poor boy!" smiled Colton. "You'll 
never know women ; that susceptible heart of yours, 
which drives you away like a scared sheep whenever 
a beautiful woman approaches, will never be good 
for anything but pumping blood." 

" Thorn, don't I know my weakness ! " The 
tone was indescribably bitter. " I must keep away, 
though I'm starving for the society of good women. 
To meet one would be to fall in love, hopelessly, 
helplessly. I'd forget that I was a thing of shame, 
a brat picked up on the banks of the river that gave 
me the only name I know." 

Colton was instantly serious. " Starvation seems 
a peculiar cure for hunger," he mused. " But 

we have argued that so many times " Again 

the thin, expressive lips finished the sentence. 

Then came the waiter with a club sandwich for 
Thames and Colton' s invariable after-theatre supper 
that was always ready when he came, and which 
he never needed to order ; two slices of graham 
bread covered with rich, red beef -blood gravy, and 
a bottle of mineral water. Colton's slim cane, hollow, 
and light as a feather, the slightest touch of which 
sent its warning to his supersensitive finger-tips, 
rested between his knees as he ate. 



TEE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 13 



Sydney Thames nibbled his sandwich absent- 
mindedly, eyes roving around the dining-room, now 
stopping at a gaudily-dressed dowager, now at an 
overpainted lady who smiled her fixed smile at the 
bull-necked man at her table, now at the circle- 
eyed girl who stabbed the cherry from her empty 
cocktail glass with a curved tine of her oyster fork ; 
but always coming back to the fresh, wholesomely 
beautiful face of Rhoda Richmond. Then the 
sombre eyes would light up ; for a beautiful face, 
to Sydney Thames, was more intoxicating than 
wine, and, to his highly sensitive nature, more 
dangerous. 

Colton pushed his plate aside as the other's eyes 
once more started their round of the dining-room. 

" The gods give gaudiness in recompense for the 
eye-sparkle they have taken, and the wrinkles they 
have given," Thornley Colton murmured quietly. 
" One must come to a New York restaurant to 
realize the true pathos of beauty." Colton's mood 
had been curiously serious since those few words 
at Norris's table. 

Thames did not answer, for no answer was 
needed. His wandering eyes had rested on a table 
to the left. 

" One often wonders," continued Colton, in that 
same musing, low-pitched voice, " why a stout 
woman, like that one two tables to our left, for 
instance, will suffer the tortures of her hereafter for 
the sake of drinking high balls in a tight, purple 
gown." 

Sydney had turned his eyes to stare at Colton, 
as he always did when the man who had picked 
him up as a bundle of baby-clothes on the banks 
of the Thames, twenty-five years before, made an 
observation of this kind. Many such had he heard, 
but never did they fail to startle him. 



14 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" How, in Heaven's name, did you know what 
I was doing, or that she was dressed in purple ? " 
he demanded. 

" You should keep both feet flat on the floor if 
you want to keep your staring a secret," laughed 
Colton quietly. " You forget that crossed knees 
make your suspended foot tell my cane each time 
you turn your head ever so slightly. See that my 
fingers are not on my stick when you covertly 
watch the women you fear to meet." 

" But the purple gown ? " demanded Sydney, 
repressing the inclination to uncross his knees, and 
flushing at the amused smile the involuntary first 
motion of the foot had brought to the lips of 
Colton. 

" All stout women who breathe asthmatically 
wear purple," declared Colton emphatically. " It 
is the only unfailing rule of femininity. And to one 
who has practised the locating of sounds that come 
to doubly sharp ears the breathing part was easy. 
There is no one at the next table on the left, you'll 
observe. Now you can resume your overt watching 
of Miss Richmond ; see " — he laid both hands on 
the white table-cloth before him — " I won't look." 

The head-waiter stopped at the table. 

" Mr. Simpson would like to have you come to 
his table, Mr. Colton. He wants you to meet his 
wife." 

" His wife ? " put in Thames quickly. 

" She is, sir." It was said with a positiveness 
there was no gainsaying. 

" Where is Mr. Simpson ? " asked Colton. " We 
had not seen him." 

" In the east wing, sir 3 where the palms are." 

" We will go to him immediately." 

" I'll tell him, sir." His beckoning finger brought 
the waiter who had served them with the check. 



TEE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 15 



Sydney Thames spoke. " Some one of his cheap 
actress friends has roped him at last," he said 
scornfully. " He's a pretty specimen of man to be 
first vice-president of the conservative Berkley 
Trust Company." 

" I'll wager you're wrong," declared Colton 
quietly, as he handed the waiter a two-dollar bill 
from his fold. " If it were one of the women for 
whom he has been buying wine suppers for the 
past two years, she wouldn't be * where the palms 
are,' nor would the waiter be so positive of the 
marriage relation." 

" I'm not going," protested Thames quickly. 

" Surely, Sydney, you are not afraid a married 
woman will kidnap you ? " smiled Colton, as he 
took the stick between his fingers and prepared to 
rise. " How many ? " 

Sydney, who had turned half around in his chair 
to gaze toward the entrance to the east wing, faced 
him. " I'll go," he said shortly ; another hasty 
glance, and he rose with Colton. " Thirty-seven 
straight, eighteen left, nine right. We will stop at 
the door of the east wing. I can't see it." 

" There are no pretty women to disturb the 
distance judgment you have been so many years 
acquiring ? " queried Colton mildly. 

Without answering, Thames turned on his heel, 
and made his way rapidly between the tables toward 
the east wing. Colton laughed silently, picked up his 
change, and hurried after, his perfectly trained 
brain counting the steps automatically, his thoughts 
busy elsewhere. He was thinking of Simpson, who 
had gained such an unenviable reputation as a 
spender along the gay White Way during the past 
two years. 

Simpson had always interested him, student of 
human nature that he was, as the one man who 



16 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



had never lived up to the impression Colton's 
unerring instinct had told him was the right one 
the first time they had met. The problemist had 
expected things of Simpson, and Simpson had done 
nothing but idle as much time as possible in the 
position as first vice-president of one of the most 
conservative banks in the city, and spend money 
on women. 

Colton stopped for an instant beside Thames in 
the archway, apparently gazing idly at the crowd 
of men and women at the palm-shaded tables. 

" Two left, nineteen straight, half in," directed 
Thames, stepping aside to follow. 

The heavy-lidded, thickset man, with the faint 
lines of blue vein traceries in his cheeks, rose to 
meet them. 

" This is a pleasure, Mr. Colton," he exclaimed, 
in heavy-voiced heartiness. " You are the one man 
I wanted to see ; though I hardly believed it would 
be my luck to catch you this night of all nights. 
You knew the pace I was going, and I want you to 
meet the little girl I went back to the old town to 
marry. We've been friends since we were tots. 
Thank God, I waked up in time to know what a 
good woman means ! When next you see us it will 
be in our own home. One moment, please " — his 
voice sank to an almost reverent whisper — " my 
wife is deaf and dumb, Mr. Colton." 

Thames had heard ; had seen, with curiously 
mixed feelings, the little woman with the small, 
boyish face around which the tendrils of brown hair 
curled from under the close-fitting toque, and had 
appraised the slim, quietly dressed figure, the half 
smile as she stared inquiringly at them. The girl 
seemed but a child, but he saw that her face was 
heavily daubed with powder and rouge, as though 
its application had neither been taught nor practised. 



THE KEYBOABD OF SILENCE 17 



Until those last explaining words he had stood back 
with a half-pitying light in his eyes, for he knew 
Simpson's reputation with women. But at the 
quietly spoken sentence he had undergone an instant 
change of feeling, such as only highly-strung, hyper- 
sensitive men like him are capable of, toward the 
man who had gone away from his women of wine 
to marry a simple country girl who could neither 
speak nor hear. 

Simpson's fingers had been moving rapidly ; he 
bowed toward Thornley Colton. The girl smiled, 
and put out her small hand, the movement throw- 
ing back from her wrist the filmy lace of the long 
sleeve. For a moment they clasped hands ; then 
the girl's fingers worked again. 

Simpson laughed. " She does not believe you are 
blind, Mr. Colton ; she says you have eyes like 
every one else." 

Thornley Colton smiled. " If you tell her that 
I've got to wear these large-lensed, smoked glasses 
to prevent the light giving me a headache you 
will probably never convince her," he observed, 
as he refused the chair the waiter had drawn 
up. 

Sydney Thames acknowledged his introduction 
with a bow and the usual meaningless words, but 
his eyes were soft and tender as a woman's as they 
met those of the girl in the instant's glance she gave 
him before the lashes were lowered. A woman's 
face never failed to stir him. 

" Won't you sit down ? " pleaded Simpson. " It 
will probably be the last time you will ever find 
me in one of these gilded palaces. A man who has 
been my kind of a fool can appreciate his own 
fireside, and Gertie, who was all aflutter to visit 
one of the famous Broadway restaurants, recognized 
in ten mica tag the crass artificiality it took me years 



20 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



Colton pulled his crystalless watch from his 
pocket, and touched it with a finger-tip. " One- 
thirty ; we are fifteen minutes late." He put his 
hand on the door catch as the big machine slowed 
up before his home. And it was not until they were 
ascending the broad brownstone steps that he 
answered the question. 

" You have missed the first act of what promises 
to be a very remarkable crime, Sydney," he said 
quietly. 

II. 

Colton scowled when the red jack failed to turn 
up, but the mouth corners smiled when the ace of 
diamonds slid between the sensitive fingers to take 
its place in the top row of Mr. Canfield's famous 
game. The deuce followed, the red jack immedi- 
ately after ; then the problemist looked up toward 
the doorway of the library. 

" Well, Shrimp ? " he smiled. 

" They's the theatrical papers yuh wanted." 
The red-headed, freckle-faced boy with the slightly- 
twisted nose came forward with an armful of big 
magazines and newspapers, the front pages of which 
were adorned with full-length portraits of stage 
celebrities. Before he quite reached the table he 
stopped short, eyes crackling their excitement. 
" Snakes ! You're gettin' it, Mr. Colton ! They's 
the four of hearts and the five of spades. Don't 
stop now." 

Colton laughed. " All right, Shrimp. Do you 
want to do a little detective work for me ? " 

" Do I ? " The eyes danced with eagerness. 
" Ain't I been studyin' % Nineteen steps from the 
kitchen t' the first chair in the dinin'-room. Six " 

" I know," assured Colton hastily. " But you 
take those papers to your room and write down 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 21 



the names of all the vaudeville actors — men, you 
know — who have quit the stage within the last two 
months ; where they have gone, and why, if 
possible." 

" Snakes 1 " The boy's face showed his dis- 
appointment. " Nick Carter never had t' do 
that." 

" He never had to count steps for a blind man, 
either," smiled Thornley Colton. " You do that 
and there'll probably be some real detective work — 
shadowing, disguises, and the rest of it." 

There was no answer. The boy had taken a 
firmer grip on the papers, and was already out of 
the room. 

The four of hearts and the five of spades had 
been placed when Sydney, face broad in a smile, 
entered. 

" What's the matter with * The Fee ' % " he 
demanded. " He ran past me as though he were 
on his way to a fire." Thames always referred to 
Shrimp as The Fee, because the red-headed, freckle- 
faced boy had become part of the Colton household 
after a particularly baffling case, at the conclusion 
of which the joy of capturing the murderer had been 
overshadowed by the blind man's sorrow for the 
broken-nosed boy who had jumped between him 
and a vicious blackjack. And Shrimp had been 
his fee for the case. As the boy's mother was the 
murdered one, and his father the murderer, there 
had been no one to object. 

Before Colton had a chance to voice his laughing 
explanation, the tinkling telephone-bell on the desk 
demanded attention. At the first words the thin 
lips tautened to a straight line, the voice became 
pistol-like in its crispness, the muscles under the 
pale skin of the face became tense. 

The problemist had a problem. 



22 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" When ? Last night. All right. Still that two- 
wire burglar connection on the safe ? Never mind 
further details. We'll be right down." 

As his hand dropped the receiver on the hook a 
finger pressed the garage bell button that would 
bring his machine instantly at any hour of the day 
or night. 

" Get your hat and coat, Sydney," he ordered 
curtly. " We're going to the Berkley Trust Com- 
pany. Somebody's gotten away with half a million 
in negotiable bonds ! " 
; " Half a million ? " gasped Thames. 

" So they said. Didn't wait for details." Colton 
grabbed his private phone-book of often-needed 
numbers, and ran his fingers down the backs of the 
thin pages on which the names and numbers had 
been heavily written with a hard pencil. As Sydney 
hurried out he heard the curt voice give a number 
over the phone. And it was fully five minutes 
before Colton took his place in the car. 

In the smooth-running machine, with the wooden- 
faced Irish chauffeur at the wheel, Sydney Thames 
voiced the question : 

" Last night, you said ? " 

" Yes, the second act came sooner than I ex- 
pected," broke in Thornley Colton. " I underrated 
the man." And the expression on the pale face 
augured ill for some one. 

The funereal atmosphere of the Berkley Trust 
Company could be felt as they entered. In the 
office of the third secretary, the white-haired 
president of the institution stopped his nervous 
pacing to mumble a greeting in tremulous accents. 
First Vice-President Simpson's grave face broke 
into a smile of welcome. Norris raised his bowed 
head from his hands, and came forward joyfully, 
pleadingly. The red-faced man who had been 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 23 



standing over him kept a step away, but always 
near enough to touch him with an outstretched 
hand. 

" My God, Mr. Colton ! They think I'm guilty ! " 
There was agony unutterable in Norris's voice. 

" Ridiculous ! " snapped Simpson, his heavy- 
lidded eyes half closed. " Mr. Colton will soon put 
this detective right. " 

The problemist nodded a grim acquiescence, and 
took the outstretched hand of Norris. " I know 
better," he said kindly. The red-faced man gave 
voice to a grunt, and Colton instantly swung around 
to face him. " So you've cleaned it up already, 
Jamison ? " he asked mildly. 

" Nobody said he was guilty," growled the red- 
faced central-office man significantly. " I just been 
questionin' him, that's all." 

" And accusing him with every question ! " 
snapped Colton. " Like the rest of your kind, 
you haven't the intelligence to suit your methods 
to the crime. Every crime must be worked 
according to the old Mulberry Street formula. 
That didn't change with the modern Centre Street 
building." 

" But we know enough not to make any cracks 
till we get all the information," sneered Jamison. 
" We don't hand out that know-it-all stuff till we 
know something ! " 

" True," smiled the problemist with his lips, but 
there was no smile in his tone. Two hectic spots 
glowed in his cheeks, the muscles worked under the 
pale skin. " What do you think, President Mon- 
trose ? " The white-haired president halted his 
pacing once more, and stroked his Vandyke. 

" The first stain on the unsullied escutcheon of the 
Berkley Trust Company," he groaned. "In all of 
the half century " 



24 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" I know all that ! " broke in Colton impatiently. 
" What happened ? Why are the police here 
instead of the protective-agency men ? " 

" I was excited," moaned the president. " It was 
the first thing that occurred to me. In all the half 
century of " 

" I guess we were all excited," interjected Simp- 
son, his lips twisted in a wry smile. " I know I \ 
was up in the air. I came down here, happier than 
I ever was before in my life, to arrange for a short 
vacation to take a wedding trip. Now this comes 
up. When I came to my senses I telephoned for 
you, because I want the robbery solved as soon as 
possible. The little girl has banked so much on 
our little time." 

"Too bad," murmured Colton. "Tell me the 
Btory, Norris." Before he could get an answer he 
turned to Thames, who always stayed discreetly in 
the background when Colton was on a case. " See 
that no one goes near that safe, Sydney ; I may 
want to examine it." 

" Kind of dropped that bluff of behV blind, ain't 
you ? " sneered Jamison, who was one of the 
hundreds of persons in New York who would not 
believe that Thornley Colton was really sightless. 
And the problemist did not deign to explain that 
once he had been in a room and touched its objects 
with his cane his trained brain held the correct 
mental picture for ever. 

" The bonds were fifty in number, ten thousand 
each, government fours, negotiable anywhere," 
began Norris, licking his dry lips to make the words 
come easier. " They were the bulk of the Stillson 
estate, on which I was working. We are settling it 
up. As third secretary my work is with trusts and 
estates. It was necessary to have everything 
finished by to-night. I worked late yesterday, so 



i 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 25 

late that the bonds and other papers could not go 
into the time-locked vaults, and I had to be at 
work on them this morning before the clock-release 
time." 

"Is it customary to keep valuable bonds in the 
small safe in this office ? " interrupted Colton. 

"It is not unusual. The safe is practically as 
strong as the big vaults, and only lacks the clocks. 
This office is really part of the vault itself, the walls 
are windowless, and of four-foot concrete reinforced 
by interlocked steel rails. The sheet-steel door, the 
only entrance to the room, opens into a small cage 
that is occupied during the day by Thompson, head 
of the trust and estate routine clerks, and at night 
by one of our two watchmen. The watchmen never 
leave it, because it often happens that valuable 
papers and bonds are left out of the big vaults 
so that we can work on them before nine o'clock, 
the hour set on the vault's clocks. To get to the 
steel door of this office one would have to enter the 
outer and inner steel cages, the steel-barred door 
of the small ante-room, besides setting off burglar- 
alarms on all, disturbing the watchman, and ringing 
the bells in the burglar-alarm department of the 
Bankers' Protective Association, of which we are a 
member. And there was no sign of a break, the safe 
was opened with the combination that only Mr. 
Montrose and Mr. Simpson and myself know." 

" The watchman could get to this door without 
any trouble ? " 

" Both have been in the employ of the bank for 
forty years. They are absolutely above suspicion. 
Both are illiterate. Even though they could enter 
the office, they could not open the safe, and even 
if they did that they would not know enough to steal 
all the notes I had made regarding the estate, or 
the bonds that have so utterly vanished. They 



26 



TEE FIRST PROBLEM 



have been sent for, however, and should be here 
any minute." 

" Were the notes you made stolen, too ? " 

" All of them." 

" Any of the other employees of the bank know 
the bonds were in this safe ? " 
" Several, probably." 

" All have access to this room, at any time ? " 

" Only Thomas, the head of the T. and E. clerks." 

" Trustworthy ? " 

" He grew up with the bank." 

" You require other clerical assistance at times ? " 

" Thomas takes the papers from this office, and 
the clerks get them from him outside. All must 
be returned to me before closing time. I carefully 
checked over every one last night before any of them 
went away." 

" Any one in here yesterday while you were at 
work on the papers ; any one who could have seen 
the bonds ? " 

For a moment there was no answer ; then it 
came, almost in a whisper : " Miss Richmond and 
her mother were in for a few moments " 

" And I was, too, by Jove ! " The interruption 
came from Simpson. " And I remember asking you 
how you were getting on with the Stillson estate. 
I just finished my part when I went away. I guess 
I really held them up longer than I should." 

" Has Miss Richmond been sent f or ? " Colt on 
paid absolutely no heed to the first vice-president. 

A grunting laugh from the detective. " She 
sure has, bo. After I found out this guy's stage 
lady had been in here with a tailor's suit-box after 
closin' time, my partner went right up to her hotel." 

" By Heaven ! You " Norris rose to his 

feet, face black with fury. Colton's hand on his 
shoulder forced him back into the chair. Sydney 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 27 



Thames, to whom all women were angels, clenched 
his fists. 

" Is that true ? " There was a new tone to 
Colton's voice. 

Norris seemed to recognize the menace. " She 

isn't guilty, I tell you ! She can't be. She's 

Listen, man I She's my wife ! " 

" Your wife ! " They all echoed it. The detective 
with laughing triumph ; President Montrose with 
horror ; Sydney Thames in dazed surprise ; Simpson 
with a half -suppressed, significant gasp. 

" We were married two days ago ; but it was to 
be a secret until the end of her season." 

" How long ago was she sent for ? " 

The detective answered : " My side kick ought 
to be back now. We was on the job there, all 
right, all right." 

Voices outside came to their ears — the harsh, 
commanding voice of a man, the half-subdued 
sobbing of a woman. The door was thrown open, 
and Rhoda Richmond, opera singer, and wife of 
Norris, was half pushed, half carried into the small 
room. 

" Good work, Jim ! " grinned Jamison. " Did 
she put up a howl at the hotel ? " 

" Hotel ? " growled the other scornfully. " No 
hotel for hers. I had a lot of luck or I'd never've 
got her. She was boardin' a boat fer South America 
that sails in an hour." 

" It's a lie ! " Norris screamed the words as he 
leaped toward the man whose rough hand was 
clenched around the slim arm of the girl. Sydney 
Thames, obeying Colton's silent signal, forced him 
back, his own hands trembling. The problemist 
without a word untwisted the central-office man's 
fingers, and gently seated the girl in a chair at the 
long table. 



28 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" Who the " The blustering detective was cut 

off suddenly. 

" We've had enough of your strong-arm methods!" 
Colton's voice was hard as flint. " We'll get some 
facts now." The hardness vanished ; in its place 
came gentle sympathy. " When did you get the 
message, Miss Richmond ? " he asked. 

The voice seemed to have the reassuring effect of 
a pat on the head of a hurt child. With an effort 
the girl controlled her sobs, and answered as though 
it had been the most natural question in the world : 
" An hour ago — over the telephone — I thought I 
recognized How — Mr. Norris's voice. He wanted me 
to meet him at the Buenos Aires dock. He had to 
go to South America secretly, he said, and I must 
tell no one. I hurried to the dock without even 
telling mother. I waited for an hour, but he did not 
come ; then I decided to go aboard and see if he 
had missed me and gone to his state room. This 

man — said Howard had — robbed — I thought " 

She broke down again. 

" I guess that's bad ! " grinned Jamison gloatingly. 
" In another hour there'd of been a clean get-away." 

" The whereabouts of the bonds doesn't seem to 
worry you ! " snapped Colton sarcastically. 

" The stuff ain't never far away from the guy 
that took it," growled Jamison. " When you get 
through your know-it-all talk we'll sweat that out, 
aU right." 

" Did you have a tailor's suit-box with you 
yesterday ? " asked Colton abruptly of the girl. 

" Yes. I called to see if my new walking-suit 
was finished. It was all ready to be sent to my home, 
but when I saw the poor, tired little boy who would 
have to carry it I took it myself. The tailor is just 
around the corner, on the avenue ; that is why 
mother and I dropped in here." 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 29 



" Of course," nodded Colton, his teeth snapping 
together as he seemed to sense the derisive grins on 
the faces of the detectives. " Did you recognize the 
bonds among the papers on which Mr. Norris was 
working ? " 

" Oh, he showed them to me, and we laughingly 
spoke of what we could do with half a million dollars. 
Then, when he took mother out to show her around 
the bank — I was too tired — I picked one up and 
read it." 

" Rhoda ! " cried Norris. He could realize the 
present significance of yesterday's innocent words. 

" That'll be about all from you ! " scowled 
Jamison. " If this guy wants to third-degree her, 
and cinch it for us, let him." 

" An' if he don't cinch it this will." The other 
detective pulled a paper from his pocket. " Here's 
the Buenos Aires' 's passenger list, and here's Mr. and 
Mrs. Frank Morris, who booked yesterday, added 
in pencil. Morris for Norris 1 Slick enough to be 
almost good." 

Every one in the room but Colton seemed to be 
shocked into a state of stupefied rigidity. 

" Now " Jamison said that word in the 

tone one uses to introduce some especially clever 
thing, and accompanied it with a sarcastic glance 
toward the blind man, who tapped his trouser leg 
with his cane in thoughtful silence. " If you ain't 
got no objection we'll take these two to head- 
quarters, and get a line on where they got the stuff 
cached." He paused suggestively, mockingly. 

The permission came, with a deprecatory wave 
of the cane, and a smile that was menacing in its 
very suaveness. " Go as far as you like, Jamison. 
Don't be too gentle with them." 

" My God, Mr. Colton ! You don't think " 

The words choked in Norris's throat. 



30 



TEE FIRST PROBLEM 



" I think you had better go." The problemist's 
tone was peculiarly quiet. " Jamison and his 
partner have the reputation of being the two 
wealthiest detectives in the department. No one 
knows how they got it, but they've enough to give 
you and your wife a twenty-thousand-dollar nest 
egg each on a false-arrest suit. Isn't that worth 
a few hours' discomfort ? I can prove your inno- 
cence when they have gone. They worry me here." 

Simpson whistled, and turned it into a jerky 
laugh. " Gad, that was clever ! " he exclaimed. 

" Oh, is that so ! " The detectives chorused it, 
in their voices sarcasm — and just a tinge of some- 
thing else, too. Colton knew the one thing that 
would make them stop and think. 

" Are you going ? " snapped Colton. 

" We'll see them two watchmen first," growled 
Jamison. 

" Good ! " The problemist laughed at the sudden 
change. " I think you'll have quite a crowd to 
take down to head-quarters if you hang around long 
enough. Before I started I telephoned to the 
burglar-alarm telegraph department of the pro- 
tective agency to get hold of the men who answered 
the alarm that rang in from this office early this 
morning." 

" What burglar-alarm ? " snarled Jamison. He 
whirled on the white-haired president. " Why 
didn't you tell us there was an alarm rung in ? " 

" Really " — the Vandyke received several severe 
yanks — " I didn't know it. We do not receive the 
clock reports and emergency alarm sheets until 
about noon. Er — Mr. Colton, might I ask where 
you got this information ? " 

" I telephoned for it," answered Colton curtly. 
" If these policemen hadn't been so anxious to 
make arrests, and the robbery hadn't been too 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 31 



obvious for their thick heads, they might have 
investigated. But they are just head-quarters men ; 
the obvious arrest is the one they always make. 
Feet make good central-office men, not heads. Ah, 
here are the men, all together." 

They came in slowly, two old men first ; one 
with straggly, white whiskers that concealed the 
weak chin and grew up around the faded, watery 
eyes ; the other's parchment-like face a network of 
wrinkles. Honesty shone from every part of them ; 
the weak, helpless honesty of their kind. 

As Colton took each man's hand with a murmured 
greeting he felt it tremble in his. The aged watch- 
men knew that something had happened ; some- 
thing that concerned them and the bank they had 
guarded so long. The two men from the burglar- 
alarm company nodded to the two detectives, and 
their eyes narrowed as they shook the hand of the 
problemist. Both knew him, and both knew this 
had been no common summons. Thornley Colton 
never bothered with common things. Sydney 
Thames had pulled two chairs up to the table, and 
the old men sat down. Colton lighted a cigarette 
thoughtfully, then he spoke : 

" This morning, gentlemen, that small safe was 
robbed of five hundred thousand dollars' worth of 
government bonds." His slim cane, apparently 
held idly between his fingers, touching the chair of 
the man nearest him,felt the watchman's involuntary 
jump. The others saw the old jaws drop, saw the 
watchmen glance helplessly at each other, their 
trembling fingers picking at worn trouser-knees. 
Colton heard the gasp of the two protective-agency 
men. 

" I knowed it ! " quavered the white- whiskered 
watchman. " I knowed something'd happen when 
Mary took sick," 



32 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" Who's Mary ? " queried Colt on interestedly. 
The others crowded forward. 

" She's Mary, my wife. She's been scrubbin' the 
bank floors fer thirty years, an' nobody ever said 
a word against her." He glanced at them all with 
pathetic belligerence. " She even picked up the 
pins she found on the floor, and put 'em in a box 
on the cashier's desk." 

" That's true," laughed Simpson. " It's the joke 
of the bank." 

" And she was taken sick last night ? " Thornley 
asked gently. 

" A week ago." The other watchman answered, 
while the first brushed his dry lips with his work- 
gnarled hand. " Mrs. Bowden, she's got the con- 
sumption, and lives across the hall from us and " 

" Where do you live ? " interrupted Colton. 

" Sixteen hundred Third Avenue. I been boardin* 
with him an' his wife fer thirty years. Mrs. Bowden's 
been doin' Mary's work. We didn't say nothin' 
ibout Mary bein' sick, 'cause she might get laid off. 
^n' Mrs. Bowden's awful poor." His voice was a 
childish, quavering treble. 

" Last night, after Mrs. Bowden had gained your 
confidence, you allowed her to scrub Mr. Norris's 
office ? " encouraged Colton. 

Norris started. " I'd forgotten that ! " he 
ejaculated. A motion from Colton commanded 
silence. 

" Yes," trembled Mary's husband. " John 
opened the door, an' started to punch his clocks, 
an' I stayed in the ante-room, like I alius do, to 
watch Mrs. Bowden. Then somehow the door got 
closed. An' Mrs. Bowden got scared there in the 
dark. She screamed an' cried till it was real sad. 
But John had the key, an' he had to punch his 
clocks on the minute, er Mr. Montrose'd be mad 



TEE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 33 



when he got the records next day. An' I couldn't 
leave my place in the ante-room. So I encouraged 
her, sayin' that John'ld be back in half an hour an' 
let her out. She quieted after a while, an* didn't 
scream so loud, but I could hear her stumblin* 
around. Then John had to run to the front door 
to see who was knockin', an' he let these gentlemen 
in. The burglar-alarm on the safe had rung, they 
said, an' " 

" Never mind that part," halted Colton. " One 
of these men will tell me that part." 

" We was called at seven-eighteen," began the 
taller of the two Bankers' Protective Agency men, 
" by the safe bell. The safe is connected with one 
wire, and under the carpet, running all around the 
safe, is a thin steel plate connected with the other. 
A man standing near enough to touch the safe forms 
a connection that rings our gong. In the day-time, 
of course, we pull the switch. We got here, and 
found the door locked, an* we could hear moaning. 
This guy " — he indicated the one with the straggly 
beard — " unlocked the door, and behind it was a 
woman, her skirt pinned up around her, laying on 
the floor, frightened to death. When she seen us 
she jumped to her feet with a little screech, and 
muttered something about thanking God." 

" You were satisfied that she was frightened ? " 

" Sure I But we didn't let it go at that. We 
snapped on every light, and examined the room. 
Nothing had been touched. We frisked the woman, 
gentle, of course, but enough to know that she 
hadn't a thing on her. We finally got it out of her 
that she'd feU against the safe trying to find the 
door in the dark. She didn't know enough to snap 
on a light." 

" She couldn't have had fifty ten-thousand-dollar 
bonds on her person ? " 
c 



34 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



Both men laughed. " Gee, Mr. Colton," laughed 
the short one. " She was so frail you could almost 
see through her. She couldn't hardly have hid a 
cigarette paper without making a hump." 

" What happened then ? " 

" She picked up the pail she had — it was full of 
dirty scrub water, and the yellow bar of soap was 
bobbing around in it — and John, here, took her 
into the cashier's cage. We hung around, talking, 
an' watching her scrub and weep into the pail until 
it was time fer her to go home. She was so all in 
I put her on a car." 

" Um ! " Colton puffed his cigarette in silence ; 
then he turned to Jamison and his partner. " Looks 
mighty suspicious, doesn't it, Jamison ? I'd advise 
you to arrest these four men and get the woman. 
Five hundred thousand is likely to make any honest 
man a crook." 

" Some kidder, ain't you ? " sneered Jamison. 
" I know Pete, there, an' if he says it was all right, 
it was. We got the guilty parties first off, an' we'll 
get the stuff, too ! " 

The smile went from Colton's lips instantly. 
" You arrest them, and we'll start false-arrest 
proceedings in an hour ! " he warned. " You leave 
Norris and Miss Richmond here ! Any one but a 
fool detective would know they weren't guilty." 

As he said the last word he jumped toward the 
safe, ran his highly sensitive fingers over the steel 
surface, knelt down, brushed the heavy carpet 
lightly with his finger tips. The two hectic spots 
on his cheeks glowed redder ; the nostrils quivered 
like those of a hound on the scent, even the eyes, 
behind the great, round, smoked glass lenses seemed 
to shine. Silently they watched him. He lowered 
his face almost to the floor, the cane was laid down, 
and his hand gave the carpet a resounding slap. 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 35 



They crowded closer. One hand went to his hip- 
pocket, a handkerchief brushed the hard- wood floor 
under the safe, between the edge of the rug and 
the wall. He rose, touched the burning end of 
his cigarette ever so lightly to the linen hand- 
kerchief that was now covered with a fine yellow 
powder. 

" See it ! See it ! " he snapped. " You couldn't 
before because it was the same colour as the hard- 
wood floor." 

" It's wood-polish powder, used for cleaning the 
varnished wood," sneered Jamison, stepping for- 
ward. " We don't want " 

" Smell it, then ! " The blind man thrust the 
handkerchief under the central-office man's nose. 
" Do you recognize it now ? It's sulphur. Ordinary 
powdered sulphur. The thing that would tell any 
man how the bonds were taken out of the office. 
Go to a drug store and find out what sulphur is 
used for." 

He thrust the handkerchief into his coat-pocket, 
brushed off the knees of his trousers, and picked 
up his stick. 

" Come, Sydney," he said quietly. " We've 
finished." 

Before the astonished men could make move or 
protest he hurried from the office, automatically 
counting the steps. He jumped into the waiting 
machine, Sydney Thames followed, and as Simpson 
and Jamison ran to the door, he snapped : " Home, 
John ! " to the Irish chauffeur, and the machine 
sped away. 

Around the first corner he leaned forward. 

" Sixteen hundred Third Avenue — quick ! " he 
ordered. 

" You don't think those two old watchmen 
guilty ? " asked Thames, in surprise. 



36 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" No ! " The tone was almost brusque. " Merely 
an unimportant detail I want to clear up." 

" You certainly left that crowd in the office at 
sixes and sevens." Thames laughed at the recol- 
lection. 

" I intended to. That's why I went into all those 
details. I wanted to leave every one up in the air, 
especially the two detectives. They'll begin to 
think now. And they won't let any one get away 
before we have made this call. I want to think, 
now." 

; Sydney Thames knew the moods of the blind 
man ; knew he could expect no explanations, or 
even replies, until Colton was ready to give 
them; so they sped in silence to the upper East 
Side. 

Soon they were on upper Third Avenue. Over- 
head the clanking " L " trains pounded their din 
into the two men's ears. The streets were crowded 
with their heterogeneous mass of men, women, and 
children. The rusty fire-escapes staggered drunkenly 
across the dirty, red tenement-fronts. 

The look of tense concentration left Colton's face. 
" A far cry from the luxurious, staidly conservative 
Berkley Trust, eh, Sydney ? " He smiled, leaning 
back in the cushions, puffing his cigarette as though 
untroubled by a serious thought ; his eyes, behind 
the smoked library glasses, seemingly fixed on the 
narrow strip of blue sky overhead. 

The car came to a stop. 

" Is this it, John ? " 

" Th' saloon on th* corner is fifteen-ninety-four, 
sorr." 

" Lead the way, Sydney." Again the twin red 
spots glowed in Colton's white cheeks, he jumped 
to the sidewalk, his slim stick tapping his trouser- 
leg eagerly. 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 



37 



Thames stepped along beside him, close enough 
for his coat-sleeve to touch that of Thornley Colton. 
And with that slight touch to guide him the prob- 
lemist followed ; for Thornley Colton was a trifle 
sensitive over his blindness, and nothing made him 
angrier than an attempt to lead him. Sydney 
found the entrance, between a second-hand-clothing 
store and a pawnbroker's shop. As he stopped to 
make sure of the weather-dimmed, painted number 
the clothing-store proprietor popped out, rubbing 
his dirty palms together, and coughing apolo- 
getically. 

" On which floor does Mrs. Bowden live ? " 
asked Colton sharply. 

" Der fourt', front. You maybe like some 
clo'es ? " 

" Is her husband watchman at the Berkley Trust 
Company ? " 

" He's dead. You means Mrs. Schneider, across* 
the hall. Her man watches. Dere boarder also. 
You like a elegant skirt for der poor vimens. Such 



Thames opened the door, and they left the 
clothing man in the middle of his sentence. In 
the dark hall Sydney made his way cautiously. 
Colton, cane lightly touching the heels of the man 
ahead, followed unhesitatingly. The journey up 
the rickety steps was torture to Colton. To his 
doubly acute ears and sense of smell the odours, the 
squalling of half -starved babies were terrible, but 
his brain automatically counted the steps so that 
he would have not the slightest difficulty in finding 
his way back to the automobile. 

" Schneider first," whispered Colton, as Thames 
stopped in the fourth-floor hall. 

In the dim light Thames saw that they were 
standing between two doors. 



38 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" I don't know which it is, but I'll take a chance." 
He knocked on the one at his left. 

The one behind immediately popped open. 

" Mrs. Bowden's gone away," shrilly proclaimed 
a tottery old woman, bobbing her head. 

" Could you give us her address ? " asked Colton, 
doffing his hat and bowing politely. 

" Laws ! " The woman's fluttering hand set her 
spectacles farther askew, in a hurried effort to 
straighten them. " She's gone to spend the day 
with her sister in Brooklyn. Them boys of mine 
pestered her till she's near sick. And she bein' so 
delicat' an* out late last night washin' dishes at 
the church sociable." 

" Are you Mrs. Schneider ? " 

The darkness hid the smile the reference to the 
' ' boys " had caused. 

" I'm her. Be you the Associated Charities ? 
Mis' Bowden said she'd asked fer help. She came 
here two weeks ago, after losin' her job in the 
department store on account of her weak lungs. 
She had to take in odd day's work. Asthma, she 
calls it, but I ain't fooled on consumption. Two 
of my » 

" And you helped her by pretending you were ill?" 
interrupted Colton. 

" I was sick fer two days." The woman hastened 
to set him right. " But she was so powerful glad 
to earn a few cents fer her asthma snuff, not that 
it is asthma. My sister's brother " 

" Of course she left the key with you until her 
return ? " Colton left the sister's brother in mid-air. 

" Yes ; but " There was just a shade of 

suspicion in the voice. 

" As agents of the Associated Charities we must 
make an examination of the room, to prove that 
she is really in need of financial help," assured 



THE KEYBOABD OF SILENCE 39 



Colton gravely. " We can wait until she returns, 
of course, but this is the last application day for 
this month." 

" Laws ! I'll get it right away." She darted 
back into the room with surprising agility, and 
returned a moment later with an iron key tied to 
a broken-tined fork. 

" There's no need of bothering you, Mrs. 
Schneider," declared Colton earnestly, as Thames 
took the key. 

" Laws ! Soon's I get these pataters on I'll be 
right with you. My boys had to go down to their 

bank " The rest of the sentence was lost, for 

as she turned to the stove Colton had jerked Thames 
from the door. 

" Quick ! " he whispered. In an instant the 
key was in the lock, and the door was open. Colton 
pushed his way in, his cane touching the scarred, 
tumbled bed and the one broken chair. " Where's 
the trunk ? " he queried, cane feeling around. 

" No sign of one, nor a case." 

" Damn ! " snapped Colton. " The bureau 
drawers ! See what your eyes find." 

Thames had the top drawer open almost before 
he had finished. He whistled in amazement. 
" Nothing but an empty pill-box, with no druggist's 
label, three quills with the feathers cut off, and a 
tuft of cotton. What the " 

" Those are what I want ! Put them in your 
pocket ! " The tenseness went out of his voice ; it 
became politely ingratiating, for his keen ears had 
heard the woman coming. " There is no doubt that 
Mrs. Bowden is in need of our assistance, Mrs. 
Schneider," he said smoothly. " Er — -is that some 
of her asthma snuff in the top bureau-drawer ? " 

She ran past him, and bobbed her head over the 
open drawer. " Yes, sir ; there is a little sprinkled 



40 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



over the bottom. You got mighty powerful eyes, 
mister." She nodded vigorously at the blind man. 
He had not been within five feet of the bureau. 
" She's dead set on it bein' asthma, but my sister's 

brother was " 

" Do you know anything against Mrs. Bowden's 
character ? " Again the sister's brother was left 
dangling. 

" Laws, no. She's that frightened she's afraid of 
her own shadow. I'm the on'y one in the house she 
took to, an' even me she kept at a distance." 
Another vigorous nod. " An* so modest ! Laws, 
she wouldn't ha' come into the halls half dressed, 
like some of the other women does. An' clean ! 
Laws ! She lugged all her clo'es over to her sister's 
in Brooklyn to-day, to be washed in their Thirtieth 
Century Washer ; not that I " 

" Ah, thank you, but we have four other calls 
to make." And, bowing gravely, Colton backed 
from the room, and hurried toward the head of the 
stairs, followed by Thames and the shrill-voiced 
encomiums of the woman. 

They took their places in the car silently, and it 
was not until they had left the noise of the avenue 
for the quiet of the side-streets that Colton spoke. 

" What do you think of it, Sydney % " asked the 
problemist gravely. 

" I'm completely at sea," confessed Thames, with 
a shake of his head. " It looked awfully bad for 
Norris when we arrived at the bank. Then that 
South American boat business. How did you know 
she had received a message ? " he asked suddenly. 

" Didn't. But I knew Miss Richmond, or rather 
Mrs. Norris. Common sense would have told any 
one that could be the only reason for her presence 
at the dock. Jamison and his kind don't use 
common sense. They use the old policeman's 



TEE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 41 



formula ; arrest the logical suspect and then 
convict him. With persons like Norris and his 
wife, each half doubting, half suspecting, either 
would have confessed to save the other. It was an 
ideal arrest, from the police view-point. " 

" Then you seemed to involve the two watchmen 
and the two men from the protective agency. 
Jamison will have a whole waggon-load." 

" He'll take no one," answered Colton. " I know 
him. He'll spend the rest of the day trying to find 
out what I was talking about. Then he'll telephone 
to head-quarters, and they'll send men to find out 
who sent the message to Miss Richmond, and to 
locate Mrs. Bowden." 

" There's the woman, Thorn ! " Thames spoke 
nervously, excitedly. " She took a dress-suit case, 
presumably full of clothes, to her ' sister 5 in Brook- 
lyn. The bonds " 

" You forget that the agency men saw her come 
out of the room empty-handed ; they even searched 
her, and one put her on the trolley." Colton smiled 
curiously. " This was wholly a man's job, Sydney, 
The work of the rarest kind of criminal ; a detailist. 
This crime, while perfectly simple, is, I think, unique 
in its attention to details. That's why it interests me." 

" Simple ! " ejaculated Thames. " Simple ? You 
speak as though you knew the guilty man." 

" I do. Perfectly. I knew last night." 

" Last night ? The " 

" The robbery was committed early to-day. 
Exactly." 

' ' Why — why " Helpless amazement was in 

Sydney Thames's voice. Why don't you arrest 
him ? Why all this " 

" Simply because I would be laughed at. I 
haven't the proof — yet. The usual criminal stumbles 
on his opportunity, and seizes it in a haphazard 



42 



TEE FIRST PROBLEM 



fashion. The rare criminal, the detailist, attends 
to every detail ; works his problem out with the 
shrewdness and forethought of a captain of finance, 
plans a coup months ahead. Then he creates the 
opportunity. You must understand, Sydney, that 
half a million is worth a few months' work." 

" But suspicion points only to Miss Richmond, 
Norris, and this Mrs. Bowden." 

" Suspicion points to every one," corrected the 
problemist. " Doesn't it seem suspicious that 
President Montrose should call in the police when 
he would naturally take all steps in his power to 
avoid publicity ? Doesn't the very eagerness of 
the central-office men to arrest Norris and his wife 
seem queer ? Isn't there a bit of suspicion in 
Simpson's confession that he delayed the Stillson 
estate until Norris was compelled to work after 
hours on them ? Doesn't Miss Richmond's story 
that she was carrying her suit home to save work 
for a delivery boy seem highly improbable and 
unwomanlike ? How about Norris telling his wife 
of the bonds ? An unbusinesslike proceeding in 
the case of half a million's worth of negotiable 
bonds, truly. Didn't the two men who answered 
the early-morning alarm seem a bit too sure that 
nothing was wrong ? Weren't the two watchmen 
in the conspiracy to pretend that Mrs. Schneider 
was ill, so that a woman whom they had known 
but two weeks could gain access to the bank ? 
Doesn't the finding of an unlabelled pill-box, three 
featherless quills, and surgeon's cotton in the other- 
wise empty room of a woman dying with tubercu- 
losis strike you as strange ? As a further detail in 
this crime of details, doesn't my confession that I 
knew the criminal before the crime was committed 
seem a trifle like guilty knowledge ? " He smiled 
broadly. 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 43 



" Great Scott, Thorn ! " Sydney Thames's voice 
trailed off in a whistle of pure bewilderment. 
" You've involved every one." 

" Oh, no." Colt on snapped his cigarette into the 
street. " Not every one. An unfortunate vaudeville 
actor will appear on the scene as soon as I get the 
list on which I left Shrimp busily at work." 

III. 

In the absolute darkness of the shade-drawn library 
Thornley Colton softly whistled a syncopated version 
of Mendelssohn's " Spring Song" as his deft fingers 
filled an empty goose-quill with a fine white powder 
from an improvised paper funnel. He plugged the 
open end with a small wad of cotton ; then his 
wonderfully sharp ears caught the rustle of the 
double portieres. 

" Oh, Sydney," he called, " have you heard any* 
thing from the bank this morning ? " 

Thames entered the darkness unhesitatingly, for 
his constant practice of judging distance and 
figuring steps for Colton had made him almost as 
much at home in the darkness as the blind man 
himself. 

" No," he answered shortly. Then, with the 
frank criticism of long friendship : " It's a crime, 
Thorn, for you to be idle while that girl is being 
dogged, and harassed, and " 

" I thought she sang remarkably well last night 
for a person under such a strain," interrupted Colton 
musingly. 

" It was wonderful, wonderful ! " Sydney Thames 
spoke with the breathless enthusiasm a beautiful 
girl always aroused in his woman-hungry heart. 

" Here, here ! " protested the problemist laugh- 
ingly. " Remember that she is another man's wife ! " 



44 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



" Great heavens, Thorn ! How can you laugh ? " 
cried Thames resentfully. " Think of those two 
dogs of detectives, questioning, bulldozing, shadow- 
ing ! Why, they didn't let Miss Richmond get 
away from the bank until late in the afternoon, then 
Jamison insisted on going with her. His partner 
hung around the bank till it closed " 

" Trying to discover the use of powdered sulphur," 
smiled Colton. " I thought he would. Any one 
but a central-office man would have gone to a 
drug store, as I suggested." 

" Two other head-quarters men hauled that frail 
old Mrs. Schneider and the two watchmen to police 
head-quarters, and put them through the third 
degree." 

" And a half-dozen more were on the trail of 
Mrs. Bowden, while we were enjoying the opera 
and an alleged cabaret show afterward, for which 
this dark room is the penalty. Too much light 
yesterday gave me a frightful headache." 

The sudden ringing of the telephone in the 
darkness made Thames jump, and Colton's cane, 
which was never away from him, felt the movement. 

" Answer it, Sydney," he requested. 

The secretary's hands had not the sureness of his 
feet, and he had to fumble a moment. When he 
had given the customary salutation and had listened 
a moment he gasped : 

" It's Simpson, Thorn. His wife is missing ! 
He wants you." He extended the phone in the 
darkness, but Thornley Colton made no move to 
take it. 

" Tell him I'll be down to the bank in an hour 
or so. I'll see him then." Colton spoke idly. 

Sydney repeated the message. Followed a silence. 
" He's frantic, Thorn ! " Thames's voice shook with 
excitement. " When he got home last night she 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 45 



was gone. The doorman at his apartment house 
said that she had gone out in the morning, for a 
short walk, he supposed. Simpson was so excited 
about the robbery he did not telephone her during 
the day, as he had promised. He spent half the 
night searching, and tried a dozen times to get you. 
She is deaf and dumb, Thorn. Think of it ! Deaf 
and dumb, and lost ! " It only needed a woman 
in trouble to shatter Sydney Thames's nerves. 

" Tell him that I'm trying to figure out that 
robbery. Tell him also that I never let one case 
interfere with another. I'm not a detective. There's 
nothing interesting about a missing woman. 
Hundreds of 'em every day. I find my pleasure in 
interesting problems, not in police work." Colton'a 
voice was sharp, curt, utterly devoid of sympathy. 

Sydney knew that tone, as he knew the man who 
used it. He repeated part of the message, added 
gentle-voiced apologies, and hung up the receiver 
with a sigh. 

"That was heartless, Thorn! Think of that 
woman, deaf and dumb, lost in this " 

" Sometimes, Sydney, that susceptible heart of 
yours becomes wearisome." Colton spoke a bit 
sharply. " A moment ago you were protesting 
because I was here instead of running around after 
the man who stole the half-million in bonds from 
the Berkley Trust Company." 

" But Mrs. Norris is not helpless " And for 

fifteen minutes he argued, while Colton smiled 
imperturbably in the darkness, and filled two other 
quills with the white powder, and plugged the ends 
with tufts of cotton. 

Suddenly Thames stopped, for Colton had picked 
up the telephone and was giving a number. 

" Hello, Shrimp ! " he called, when the connec- 
tion had been made. " Everything all right ? Fine 



46 



TEE FIRST PROBLEM 



business. Three hours, eh ? Good ! Be on time, 
and obey orders. Good-bye ! " 

" Where's The Fee ? " demanded Sydney. " I 
haven't seen him since yesterday." 

" Emulating the example of his worthy hero, 
Nick Carter. Shrimp is a real detective now." 
Colton returned the crystalless watch to his pocket, 
picked up the three quills, and arose. " Come on, 
Sydney. We'll walk over to the bank." 

" Walk ? " ejaculated Thames, for he knew the 
blind man's aversion to walking when he could ride. 
" Where's the machine ? " 

" John and the machine are helping Shrimp in 
his detective work," explained Colton. And in the 
twenty minutes' walk to the Berkley Trust Com- 
pany he absolutely refused to answer questions, but 
kept up a continuous conversation on trivial topics, 
that was maddening to the nervous secretary. 

The effect of the previous day's badgering, ques- 
tioning, and threats of the central-office men could 
be seen as one entered the bank. The aged cashier's 
hands trembled as he tried to count a sheaf of new 
bills. Book-keepers in the rear wrote figures and 
erased them. Thompson, head of the trust and 
estate clerks, in his little ante-room cage, was in a 
pitiable state of nerves. The typewriter's chair by 
President Montrose's desk was vacant, because the 
lady stenographer was at home under the care of a 
doctor. The fifty years of staid, conservative calm 
that had characterized the Berkley Trust Company 
during its long and useful life had been hit by a 
five-hundred-thousand-dollar storm. 

The group in the vaultlike office of Second 
Secretary Norris was little better. President 
Montrose could hardly control his trembling hand 
to stroke his Vandyke ; Norris's eyes showed the 
sleeplessness of the night before ; Miss Richmond 



TEE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 47 



was calm with the calmness that means coming 
nervous collapse ; her mother was crying softly ; 
Simpson seemed positively haggard, and Sydney 
Thames murmured words of sympathy for the man 
who had two troubles. Jamison and the other 
central-office man could not make their sneers 
wholly sceptical. The protective-agency men were 
plainly puzzled. 

" I see you are all on hand." There was no smile 
in Colton's voice now, or on his lips ; he was deadly 
calm, coldly earnest. " You didn't think it necessary 
to send for the two watchmen ? " 

" We got merr watchin' them," put in the surly 
J amison. 

" Thanks ! " came curtly from Colton. " Sit 
down at this table, all of you. I want to tell you 
a story." 

" We didn't come to hear " 

Simpson interrupted the detective : 11 For God's 
sake, make it short, Mr. Colton ! My wife " 

" I'll look into that later." Colton's cane assured 
him that the chairs were around the long table, 
and his finger-tips felt the face of his watch in his 
pocket. 

" Will you ? " Simpson's voice was almost 
sarcastically eager, his heavy-lidded eyes narrowed. 
Thames could not blame the man's natural resent- 
ment for Colton's offhandedness. 

Silently they took seats. Colton sat facing the 
closed door ; across the table was Simpson and 
Norris. Miss Richmond and her mother were at 
the end. The four detectives were on either side 
of the problemist. 

" This is a story of a criminal who was born a 
criminal ; who couldn't be honest if he tried," 
began Colton, in his quietly expressive voice. One 
hand lay idly on the table before him, the other on 



48 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



his knees, fingers holding the slim, hollow cane. 
" He wasn't just born crooked. He started petty 
thieving before he was out of short trousers. He 
was the rare criminal that works years as an honest 
man to pave the way for criminality. He had brains. 
He could have been a wonderful success as an 
honest man. But he couldn't be straight. The 
criminal instinct was there. He was waiting for 
the proper time. But the coarser side of his nature 
refused to be held in leash. He needed money. 
And with the inherent craft of his kind he began 
to plan the robbery of the Berkley Trust Company. 
It wasn't so hard, because, being an old, conserva- 
tive institution, in which men had grown gray, the 
personal side entered as it cannot in the modern, 
up-to-date institutions where men come and go. 
Instead of elaborate safeguards the simple protec- 
tion of proven honesty entered largely into the 
protection of the bank's valuables. And where there 
is simple honesty there is always vulnerability. 

" This criminal had found the vulnerable spot 
years before the robbery was actually planned ; 
when the time came for its consummation luck 
came to his aid, as it often does." He paused. 
On the outside door came a knock, so faint that 
only his wonderfully sharp ears heard it. " There 
was no possibility of suspicion attaching itself to 
him, for he had planned an elaborate programme 
to foist suspicion on others. And this robbery was 
but one of a series, for the method his shrewd brain 
had devised was capable of endless combinations. 
In a few years the Berkley Trust losses would have 
mounted to millions ! " 

His fist crashed down on the heavy table. The 
door opened. Between the sober-faced Shrimp and 
the expressionless Irish chauffeur was a sunken- 
eyed, tottering creature, unshaven 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 49 



" There's your wife, Simpson ! " In the silence 
Colton's voice came like the crack of a pistol. 

" My God, Thorn, it's a man ! " In Sydney 
Thames's tone was agony that the sensitive blind 
man whom he loved could have made such a 
mistake. 

" Yes, a man ! Sit still, Simpson f " With a 
movement as quick as light itself Colton's fingers 
had dropped the slim cane that had given its warn- 
ing, and held a blue-steel automatic. " Or rather 
what was once a man." His tone rang with deadly 
menace. " Charlie de Roque, vaudeville actor, the 
youngest and best female impersonator on the stage ; 
Mrs. Bowden, the consumptive who played so well 
on the sympathies of the three simple-minded souls 
at sixteen-hundred Third Avenue ; Mrs. Simpson, 
the deaf-and-dumb little girl who was going to 
make Simpson lead a better life." 

" You lie ! " The shambling shadow of a man 
screamed it as he tried to jerk away from the 
chauffeur. " They told me they were going to take 
me to a sanatorium. I don't know what you're 

talking about. They've kept me " His whole 

body racked with sobs. 

" Would you tell the truth for these ? " The 
automatic did not waver a fraction of an inch as 
Colton's unoccupied hand threw down on the table 
three cotton-plugged quills. 

" Merciful God ! Yes I " With insane strength 
he broke away from the big Irishman and darted 
to the table. His twitching fingers snatched a quill, 
pulled the cotton from the end, threw his head 
back 

" Enough of these damn' theatrics ! " Simpson 
snarled it viciously, but he did not move. " By 
Heaven, Colton, you can't railroad me to save 
Norris and his wife with the fool ravings of a cocaine 



50 



TEE FIRST PROBLEM 



snuffler ! " His face was purple, the veins in his 
forehead seemed ready to burst. " Mrs. Bowden ! " 
He scoffed. " How did she get the bonds ? Where 
are they % Find 'em ! " he laughed triumphantly 
at Colt on across the table, and the two central-office 
men who now stood over him. 

" Here yuh are, Mr. Colton." It was Shrimp, 
staggering under the weight of a big bucket of 
dirty water. He set it down beside the problemist's 
chair. 

" The bonds are here, Simpson ! " Colton's hand 
plunged into the water, and came up with a dripping, 
shiny black object. " There's the first package, in 
an all-rubber ice bag ! " 

" You devil 1 " Simpson's rage made his voice 
a scream. 

" Take your prisoner, policemen." Colton could 
not refrain from adding that last scornful word to 
the two detectives who had not seen until a blind 
man had shown them. 

IV. 

" Of course, De Roque, who was merely the drug- 
crazed tool of the real criminal, would have told 
where the bonds were," declared Thornley Colton, 
when they were once more in the shade-drawn 
library of the big, old-fashioned house. " But 
Simpson would have had time to be on his guard. 
The finding of the bonds, as I did, before he had 
time to recover his nerve, drew from him those 
last betraying words. The police can establish his 
connection with the telephone message to Miss 
Richmond, the booking of the two passages under 
the name of Morris, and the place where he and De 
Roque met while the fake Mrs. Bowden was supposed 
to be out at day's work. Those details were not 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 51 



even worth bothering with, for me, because the 
keyboard of silence told me the guilty persons before 
the robbery was committed." 

" I am as much at sea as ever," confessed Sydney 
Thames. 

" In the Regal we saw the first act. Simpson, 
with the dare-devilishness that characterizes the 
type, introduced me to the accomplice. It was not 
wholly dare-devilishness, however, for it was to 
prepare the get-away. He wanted, before the time 
came for her to disappear, to arouse your sympathy 
and my interest in the deaf-and-dumb woman, 
whom he had married to accomplish his reformation. 
After a fruitless search he would need a long vacation 
in Europe, with the bonds, of course, to recover 
from the shock. There could be no suspicion 
attached to him. No sane man would look for a 
deaf-and-dumb wife in the person of a vaudeville 
actor dying of tuberculosis and cocaine who had 
drug dreams of money coming his way. Once 
Simpson had gotten out of the country, De Roque 
could have raved and stormed, even confessed, and 
his confession would have been accepted as nothing 
but cocaine dementia. Simpson never intended to 
play fair ; it isn't his nature. From the first time 
I ever shook his hand I have known him to be a 
born criminal, for I can read hands as the physiog- 
nomist reads faces. And I have the advantage, 
because men like Simpson, with the aid of their 
strong wills, can mask their emotions behind eyes 
and faces so that no man can read their minds. 
But they have never given a thought to their hands." 

" Do you mean to say you could tell what Simpson 
was planning by shaking his hands there in the 
Regal % " demanded Thames incredulously. 

" Not quite," protested Colton laughingly. " But 
you know how I shake hands. My long index fingei 



52 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



always rests lightly on the keyboard of silence — the 
wrist. With a touch like mine, so light that I can 
read handwriting by feeling the ridges left on the 
blank side of the paper, not one person in a million 
could feel it. I think Miss Richmond did, when I 
shook hands with her, because I felt a responsive 
thrill. In the case of Simpson his heart was work- 
ing like a steam-engine, though his face and eyes 
were a mask that neither you nor any man with 
eyes could read ; my finger-tip on his pulse told 
me that he was labouring under some strong excite- 
ment. When I shook hands with his ' wife/ I 
discovered why." 

" Why ? " echoed Thames blankly. 
" Because the wife was a man, and a drug-fiend.' ' 
" Your hand told you that, and my eyes were 
deceived ! " 

" My knowledge of anatomy told me the man 
part. Don't you know that over the muscles of a 
woman is a layer of fat that gives the beautiful 
feminine curves ? The man's muscles play directly 
under the skin, and the curves of female imper- 
sonators are due to flabby muscles, and not the 
feminine fat layer. Besides, the cocaine pulse of 
the ' wife,' my finger-tip immediately felt the play 
of the muscles as the hand gripped mine. Knowing 
Simpson, the impersonation could mean nothing 
else but a contemplated crime. I further proved it 
by getting her to put out her hand before she could 
have had any knowledge, by signs, of my intention 
to say good-bye. Remember my reference to lip- 
reading ? Simpson was taking no chance of letting 
her talk. The cocaine gave her the brightness of 
eye, and the heavily-daubed rouge I knew would 
have to be there to convince you that she was really 
a country girl who didn't know the use of cosmetics, 
and also to cover any trace of man's beard and 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 53 



cocaine pastiness of skin. It would have deceived 
any one who had eyes, where an artistic make-up 
would immediately have aroused suspicion. Simp- 
son was a wonderful detailist. 

" Commonsense told me that Simpson could not 
risk working with an amateur. Therefore I set 
Shrimp to looking up actors who had been forced 
to leave the stage on account of ill health within the 
last two months. The whole thing must have been 
rehearsed many times, for the detailist would 
overlook no detail. In Shrimp's list was De Roque. 
A few telephone inquiries proved that he was really 
a cocaine fiend of the worst kind, also that he had 
returned, yesterday morning, from a sanitarium, 
no better, to his old boarding-house. It was Simp- 
son's scheme to let him do that, for it eliminated 
him. As soon as I found out that Simpson would 
not risk visiting him, Shrimp and John got him on 
the pretence that they were from Simpson. Cocaine 
snufflers as far gone as he need the drug every hour. 
For three hours before the time arranged for Shrimp 
to bring him to the bank De Roque hadn't had a 
pinch ; he was insane with craving. The visit to 
Third Avenue, and the finding of the quills which 
cocaine snufflers use to hide the stuff on their bodies 
and conceal it in their palms so that no one can see 
them snuff it gave me the things I needed to make 
him talk. You saw how they worked." 

" But the detectives who helped him out of the 
room ? How did you ever figure the possibility of 
the bonds being in the scrub water % " 

" The protective-agency men told me. Their 
eyes saw what my lack of eyes understood. The 
yellow bar of soap bobbing on top of the water, I 
think one of them expressed it. An instant's 
intelligent thought would tell any one that the 
yellow soap used for scrubbing floors never floats. 



54 



THE FIRST PROBLEM 



The finding of the powdered sulphur showed me the 
clever ice-bag trick, for powdered sulphur is always 
used by druggists to keep the thin rubber from 
sticking together when the bags are in the boxes. 
Of course, De Roque carried it with him every night 
waiting for his opportunity, and in pulling it out 
the powder scattered on the carpet. The natural 
thing was to brush it under the safe, where my 
handkerchief found it after my slapping hand had 
raised the scattered grains he had missed. 

" The ringing of the burglar-alarm was a master- 
stroke. It was the link necessary to establish the 
innocence of Mrs. Bowden. Simpson, of course, 
knew of the connection. De Roque probably 
removed his shoes and stood on the rubber ice-bags 
while he opened the safe and took out the bonds 
and papers Simpson had so accurately described. 
Then, when they had all been packed and the safe 
closed, a natural stumbling against the safe would 
bring the protective-agency men to swear that 
nothing could have been taken from the room. 
When the time came to leave the building, the pail, 
still full of water, was carefully put in a far, dark 
corner of the cellar closet, where the scrub pails and 
mops are kept. It would have been safe until 
Simpson was ready to take the bonds away. That 
was why I worked to keep Jamison and his partner 
around the bank ; I didn't want Simpson to have 
any opportunity to get the loot out. 

" Of course, it was he who suggested the calling 
of the regular police to the flustered President 
Montrose. Because, while he was sure that he 
could deceive me, he wasn't taking any foolish 
risks. He wanted the central-office men to muddle 
the thing as much as possible, and he was shrewd 
enough not to overdo the casting of suspicion on 
Norris and his wife ; the way he put in a word here 



THE KEYBOARD OF SILENCE 55 



and there, and looks, of course, was quite in keeping 
with the other details. This morning, I think, he 
had begun to realize what I was doing, but there 
was nothing he could do but count on a bluff. I 
took him off his guard." 

For several minutes the two men smoked in 
silence. 

" But why didn't you warn some one instead of 
letting the robbery go on ? " Sydney asked finally. 

Colton's expressive lips framed a wry smile. 
" You will insist on showing the fly in the ointment, 
Sydney. The truth is, I was caught napping. But 
I guess it's just as well I didn't. Jails are built for 
the protection of society, and Simpson is the one 
man in a thousand against whom society needs 
protection," 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 
I. 

For weeks the five-hundred-thousand-dollar recep- 
tion of the Jimmy Raeltons had been heralded as 
the greatest event of the New York social season. 
The news columns had been filled with accounts of the 
costly preparations, the wonderful gowns, the millions 
in jewels that would grace the first appearance of 
the Raeltons in society since the Carlton-Browne 
reception of thirteen months before. The news- 
papers had retold, lest their readers should forget, the 
tragic story of the mysterious suicide of Mrs. Jimmy 
Raelton's sister, Mrs. Donald Wreye, on the night 
following the Carlton-Browne affair. The conse- 
quent retirement of the Raeltons had been reviewed ; 
the report of the ill health of Mrs. Raelton had been 
substantiated ; and the two months' cruise on the 
palatial Raelton yacht was said to have brought 
back the bloom to faded cheeks. And to-night the 
Jimmy Raeltons were formally to re-enter New 
York's social scheme of things ; again to fill the 
niche that had been vacant for thirteen months. 

The small army of police herded the curious 
crowd from the side- walk as a black limousine drove 
up silently and came to a stop at the canopied curb. 
The door swung open, and men and women, who 
would stand patiently for hours to catch a mere 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 57 



glimpse of the notables they worshipped from afar, 
saw the first man alight. The electric globe under 
the awning brought out the striking whiteness of 
the face and hair ; the contrast of the great blue 
circles of the smoked-glass, tortoise-rimmed library 
spectacles that rested lightly on the thin nose ; the 
broad shoulders, and deep chest under the Inver- 
ness. The first arrival rapped the pavement lightly 
with the slim stick he carried as the apple-cheeked, 
black-haired man who accompanied him spoke a 
word to the driver and stepped beside him. 

A policeman touched his hat. " Early, ain't you, 
Mr. Colton ? " he greeted the other. 

" These things never interest me, Peters," re- 
turned Thornley Colton, in his deep, musical voice. 
" A quiet chat with Jimmy and my goddaughter 
before the crowd arrives, then home and quiet." 

He started briskly toward the wide steps, the red- 
cheeked man so close that his coat-sleeve touched that 
of the other. The policeman turned to his partner. 

" A great guy, Tom," he observed, in a hoarse 
whisper. " He says he's blind, an' everybody else 
says he's blind, but if he is, then I wish I was ! 
That's all." 

The two men had ascended the steps. A man of 
impassive face opened the door, two others took 
their coats and sticks. Silent-footed servants were 
everywhere, deftly arranging the last details before 
the guests should arrive. On every hand was evi- 
dence of the lavishness that would mark the recep- 
tion ; but it was the lavishness of good taste, not 
the garishness of mere money. Through the great, 
high hall they were' conducted to the Moorish room, 
where Jimmy Raelton greeted them with char- 
acteristic enthusiasm. But the superkeen ears of 
Thornley Colton caught an undercurrent of serious- 
ness in the host's voice. 



58 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



" Robbery ? " he asked quietly, as the slim, 
hollow stick he always carried found a chair. 

" Scott, yes ! " laughed Raelton ; then, seriously : 
" That mind-reading stunt of yours is positively 
uncanny at times, Colt on.' ' 

" Simple elimination," explained the blind pro- 
blemist. " Something more serious would have 
been given publicity before this ; something less 
serious would not have caused you to ask us here 
an hour before guests should arrive." 

" It's more puzzling than really serious," declared 
Raelton. " You know I'm so foolishly happy 
to-night because Dorothy is herself again that 
nothing else could really matter." His face lighted 
up boyishly. The Jimmy Raeltons had been 
married five years, and society still called them the 
Newlyweds. 

He took a small leather case from the inlaid taboret 
beside him, and snapped open the lid. Sydney 
Thames, the blind man's secretary and constant 
companion, could not repress a gasp of admiration 
as the wonderful diamond necklace sent its thousand 
flashing fires toward the shaded lights above. 

" This is the thing I wanted to see you about," 
quizzically smiled Jimmy Raelton, as he extended 
the open case toward the blind man. A question 
would be needed here, at least. 

Colton took the case, weighed it on his open palm 
an instant, brushed the stones ever so lightly with 
the tip of his forefinger, and snapped shut the lid. 

" Worth fifty thousand — if it wasn't paste," he 
announced. 

" Good Lord ! " Raelton sank weakly into a big 
morris chair, the one anachronism his comfort-loving 
body demanded. 

" To a person with highly sensitive finger-tips 
there can be no such thing as a fake diamond ; 



UNTO TEE THIRD GENERATION 59 



because no crystal less hard will hold a sharply- 
defined facet edge. When, and how, was the sub- 
stitution made ? " 

" That is just the point. Since the morning 
following the Carlton-Browne reception they have 
been in the safe-deposit vault to which only Dorothy 
and I have access. You know she has never used 
them since ; she hasn't been herself for six months 
or so." A troubled light came to his eyes. " It 
wasn't her sister's death so much — it seemed to be 
something else. Sometimes I almost feared that 
she was discontented ; that she didn't want to stay 
at home with the kiddies any more. Her father 
was always a wanderer, and her grandfather died 
in China, — you know how. But, thank God, that's 
over. The two months' cruise on the Sea Mew have 
made her the same old Dorothy." 

He paused an instant, then came back to the 
point. "I'm quite an expert in an amateur way, 
and I recognized the substitution instantly to-night. 
The discovery seemed to agitate Dorothy terribly. 
She always set great store by the necklace — it was 
my wedding-present. The thing has upset hea* so 
that she will be positively ill, unless you discover 
how the substitution was made, and by whom. 
She wouldn't let me call the police." 

" Where is Dorothy ? " asked Colton anxiously. 

" She is lying down. I'm afraid this thing is 
going to spoil the whole evening." Again came the 
troubled note. He touched a small silver bell. ' ' I'll 
call her. I want you to convince her that it isn't 
worth worrying about. You can do it, because 
she has always looked upon you as a father." 

A servant entered, bowed at the order, withdrew. 

They waited in silence for the coming of Dorothy 
Raelton. Thornley Colton's mind went back to 
the death of Colonel Calvin, the promise given by 



60 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



the blind man that he would be a father to the two 
parentless girls. A look of sadness came to the thin 
expressive lips. He was thinking of the other 
beautiful daughter ; the suicide that had never been 
explained. 

The servant returned. His ruddy English face had 
lost a bit of its colour ; his voice trembled slightly. 

" Mrs. Raelton is sleeping. The door's locked— 
and Dora can't wake her." 

In three minds leaped a single, horrible thought. 
Jimmy Raelton leaped to his feet, dry-lipped. 

•" My God, Thornley ! " He ran toward the door, 
and into the hall. Thornley Colt on was at his heels, 
supersensitive ears following each footfall unerringly. 
Sydney Thames hurried after them ; the servant 
brought up the rear. They raced up the marble 
stairs. In the upper hall a maid leaned against the 
wall, wringing her hands. 

" Mr. Raelton ! " she sobbed. " Oh, I can't bear 
it!" 

Thornley Colton had not paused ; his slim stick 
found the closed door. He turned to face them, on 
his countenance an expression Sydney Thames had 
never seen before. He spoke to the white-faced 
servant. 

" The guests will begin to arrive any moment, 
now," he said, and his tone was as strange as the 
look on his face. " Tell them that Mrs. Raelton 
has been taken suddenly ill. The reception is 
postponed — indefinitely. Let no one in." He 
waited a moment till the man had gone ; then his 
hand fell on Jimmy Raelton's shoulder. " Sydney 
and I will go," he said huskily. 

" She isn't " Raelton could not finish. 

Colton shook his head sadly. " She isn't dead, 
Jimmy," he said, and stopped, with a world of 
suggestion in his tone. 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 61 



" Then I want you to stay," pleaded the husband 
hysterically. " Nothing else matters — if she is 
alive." 

He thrust his shoulder against the door. The 
lock gave way. He staggered in ; stopped short 
with a gasp of horror. On the wide bed lay Dorothy 
Raelton, unconscious, hair disarranged, priceless 
gown dishevelled. From one limp hand dangled a 
long, black opium pipe. On a low table beside the 
bed a sweet-oil lamp burned flickeringly. A small 
can of opium was overturned beside it. The needle 
that had cooked the drug over the flame stained 
the white coverlet of the bed. The pungent smell 
of opium smoke was in the air. 

Jimmy Raelton darted across the room, flung 
himself on his knees beside the bed. 

" My God ! " he moaned in agony. " My God ! " 

Thornley Colton's hand fumbled for the knob, 
found it. 

" Come, Sydney," he murmured softly. Mechani- 
cally Thames obeyed. The door closed softly behind 
them. The Jimmy Raeltons^ were alone. 

II. 

Black headlines in the morning papers told of the 
strange postponement of the Raelton reception. 
Black type told eager readers of the scene in front 
of the Raelton home when arriving guests were 
met at the door with a startling announcement : 
" Mrs. Raelton is ill. The reception has been post- 
poned indefinitely." And the door had been closed 
in their faces ! 

Eager readers learned of the silent line of servants 
that had filed from the rear entrance of the dark- 
ened house ; the fifty thousand dollars' worth of 
flowers left to wilt unseen ; the caterers' elaborate 



62 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



preparations — estimated to have cost thousands — 
left to spoil untasted. Much was made of the fact 
that Jimmy Raelton refused even to see a reporter, 
and all the papers, yellow and conservative alike, 
hinted at a sinister something that would explain 
a thing so unprecedented in the annals of New York 
society. Two of the most progressive sheets learned 
that Doctor Henry, the young physician who had 
made such rapid strides in his practice among the 
social leaders, had not been called, and knew nothing 
of Mrs. Rael ton's reported illness until told by the 
reporters. 

In the library of his old-fashioned up-town house 
Thornley Colton sat with bowed head. At his feet 
were the crumpled papers Sydney had read to 
him. 

" This is the saddest day of my life, Sydney, " 
the blind man said slowly. " I promised Colonel 
Calvin that I would watch over his daughters. 
His father died an opium fiend." 

Sydney's eyes widened. " I never knew that ! " 

" Few did. I have zealously guarded the secret 
all my life. Not even the girls knew it, though I 
told Jimmy when he married Dorothy. Colonel 
Calvin was always afraid of the stain being in the 
blood. He had fought the craving, but he feared 
for his daughters. I laughed at him, for atavism, 
to me, has always seemed merely a cloak for weak- 
ness. Now I am reaping my whirlwind. One is 
dead by her own hand, the other an opium fiend. 
I can never forget my feelings when I caught the 
unmistakable smell of opium smoke before we 
opened that door." 

Silence came again, to be broken by The Fee, a 
red-haired, freckle-faced blue-eyed boy, who had 
become a part of the Colton household at the con- 
clusion of a particularly, baffling murder case. 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 63 



" Dere's a feller an* goil downstairs wants to see 
yuh. Looks like soivents, and says dere name's 
Ray ton." 

Only for an instant was the expression of surprise 
on the blind man's face. " Send them up," he said 
quietly, and he rose to meet Jimmy Raelton and 
his wife. 

A cry of pity came to Sydney Thames's lips as the 
man and woman entered. Jimmy Raelton, in an 
ill-fitting suit of blue, a plaid cap pulled down over 
his eyes, had grown an old man in a night. Mrs. 
Raelton, in a tawdry dress, leaned heavily on the 
arm of her husband, as she had leaned when their 
disguises took them safely past the cordon of 
newspaper men. 

Silently Thornley Colton took a hand in each 
of his, the mobile face telling them what his 
tongue could not ; silently he lead them to chairs. 
Not until they were seated did Jimmy Raelton 
speak. 

" We are going away," he said, and his tone was 
dead, hopeless. " We are going to fight the fight 
together. Dorothy wanted to say good-bye — and 
tell you." 

" I couldn't go without seeing you," Dorothy 
Raelton sobbed chokingly. " It will make it easier 
— to know that you understand. I'm glad — that 
Jimmy knows at last." Her voice steadied, and 
she went on simply, bravely : " If it hadn't been 
for little Jimmy and Dorothy, I would have done 
as Marjorie did — ended it all. Marjorie, too, had 
the curse, though I didn't know it until that hideous 
morning I waked with a terrible headache and the 
opium pipe on the floor beside me. I screamed for 
my maid. Then she told me why Marjorie had 
written that pitiful, pleading note, begging me to 
take Dora because she could be trusted if anything 



64 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



happened. Dora was the only one who even 
suspected that my sister was an opium fiend, just 
as my grandfather was. Marjorie had told her that. 
Dora said that she had heard me going downstairs 
in the night, and in a dream I seem to remember 
going to the Chinese room and taking the opium 
set and small glass jar of the drug we kept as 
curiosities ; but it seems hazy, unreal. 

" I hid the set in my room ; I didn't dare risk 
getting it out. Every week the longing would come. 
I'd go blind, insane with craving, and in the morn- 
ing I would wake, with the opium pipe beside me, 
and the little lamp still burning. Time after time 
I tried to hide the things, but in my blind delirium 
I always found them. One day I gave them to Dora 
for her to destroy, and that night I went and choked 
her until she gave them back. She had not had 
time to carry out my orders. I don't remember 
going to her at all, but in the morning I waked with 
the pipe beside me, and on Dora's throat were the 
marks of my fingers." 

She stopped, sobs racking her slender frame. 
Beside her Jimmy Raelton's head was in his hands, 
his body quivering. She went on : " Jimmy 
thought it was nervous break-down. He insisted 
on a long cruise in the yacht. For two whole months 
I never once felt the craving ! I thought it was 
gone ! I romped and played with the children ; I 
laughed and joked with my husband. Then we 
planned last night's reception. My God ! The 
discovery by Jimmy of the substitute diamonds 
in my necklace overwrought me. I went upstairs, 
took a headache powder, and I waked " 

She broke down utterly. Jimmy Raelton raised 
his bowed head. " Now you know the whole 
pitiful story. Will you keep our secret till we win 
the fight ? " 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 65 



" Always/' assured Thornley Colton softly. He 
laid a gentle hand on Dorothy's shoulder. " You 
may need help, little goddaughter ; will you call on 
me?" 

A nod answered him ; she could not speak. 

" The fight will be short ; such faith cannot help 
but win quickly," he added. His voice brought a 
look that was almost hopeful into the woman's eyes, 
so full of assurance was it. Some subtle special 
sense seemed to tell him, for his thin Hps curved in 
one of their rare smiles of encouragement. " I 
know you will win," he repeated. Then, to change 
the subject : "I will investigate the necklace sub- 
stitution while you are gone. We've forgotten it 
completely." 

Only the silent Sydney Thames saw the startled 
look leap to the eyes of the man and woman. 
Dorothy Raelton found her voice first. " Don't ! " 
she cried brokenly. " I took the stones. They — > 
were all — I had — to pay some one." 

" What ! " The tone of Colton's voice startled 
them. In it was amazement ; under it was anguish, 
the anguish of a man who has made a horrible 
mistake. " You have been paying blackmail ? " 
His voice was almost harsh. 

" Yes." She scarcely breathed it. 

" How long ? To whom ? " He was standing 
over her now ; his attitude half menacing. His 
voice compelled an answer. 

" For six months," she whispered, " the letters 
have been coming. They said I must pay, or the 
world would be told of the curse. I could do nothing 
else. I burned the letters as fast as they came, and 
I've sent fifty thousand dollars to a lock-box in 
Philadelphia. I had to sell my diamonds, and have 
them replaced by imitations to make the last 
payment." 

E 



66 



THE SECOND PBOBLEM 



" My God, what a fool I've been ! " There was 
only anguish in the blind man's voice now. He 
paced the floor with tigerish strides. 

" Do you ever remember cooking the opium pill ? " 
It came like a pistol-shot. 

" Cooking " He gave her no chance to finish. 

" Where did you get the headache powders you 
take?" 

" Doctor Grayton gave me the prescription, just 
before he died. I have never taken any others." 

" How often do you take them ? " 

" Several times a week. They quiet my nerves. 
I have been taking them for years, renewing the 
prescription when necessary." 

" Did you take any on the cruise ? " 

" Perhaps a dozen. They prevent sea-sickness." 

" You never felt the craving for that two months?" 

" Never." 

" They put you to sleep ? " 

" A light sleep that comes of quieted nerves." 
She was answering the questions automatically, 
staring at him. Her husband listened, lips parted, 
breath coming fast. Sydney Thames was leaning 
forward, tense, expectant. 

The blind problemist whirled from her and con- 
tinued his pacing. Twice he made the length of the 
room. 

" The inhuman devils ! " they heard him mutter. 
" God, what devils there are ! " 

Jimmy Raelton could stand it no longer. " What 
do you mean ? " he cried. 

The blind man stopped before him, sightless eyes 
behind the round, dark glasses apparently staring 
deep into his. " I mean that my neglect is respon- 
sible for this." There was terrible bitterness in his 
voice. " Not a breath of opium smoke has ever 
passed Dorothy Raelton' s lips I " 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 67 



Dumb, stupefied, they could only stare ; then, 
as though moved by hidden springs, the man and 
woman leaped to their feet. But as quickly as it 
came the look of hope died in Dorothy Raelton's 
eyes. She fell back into the chair. 

" Don't ! " she sobbed. " I can't bear it ! I've 
used the horrible stuff a hundred times. I couldn't 
fight against it ! " 

The man still stood, swaying ever so slightly, 
finger-nails biting into his palms, as his hands 
clenched convulsively. 

Gently the blind man forced him down into his 
chair. " It is true, Jimmy," he said, and his voice 
was normal once more. " I should have known 
it last night when the whole game was in my hands. 
Now I must start at the beginning. The mind I 
have trained for years to be purely eliminative, 
that I have thought impervious to outside influences, 
is only human, after all. Last night I believed the 
evidence of my four senses and did not use my 
brain." 

Only Sydney Thames realized what this confession 
cost the man who had so prided himself on his 
infallibility. 

" I don't understand," came dully from Jimmy 
Raelton. 

The blind man resumed his pacing of the room. 
" Dorothy doesn't even know that the opium pill 
must be ' cooked ' over the sweet-oil lamp ! She 
doesn't know the first thing about opium smoking ! 
And last night there was no key on the inside of 
the door. It was locked from the outside ! I remember 
distinctly that my fumbling fingers felt no key as I 
went out. I know — now — that none fell. Some- 
one wanted you " — his finger pointed at Jimmy 
Raelton—" to see your wife ! " He paused for an 
instant, then continued, rapidly, crisply : " The 



68 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



whole thing is the most devilish blackmail I have 
ever heard of. It is based on the one thing that 
all the past dead centuries have taught us to fear — 
atavism. When Dorothy's money had gone, and 
the selling of the necklace stones told the black- 
mailers so, the husband must be the next victim 
of the vampire. The scene of last night was arranged 
so that only a touch would be needed to explode 
the powder-magazine the reception postponement 
had started if Jimmy refused to pay. The fiendish 
simplicity of it ! " 

" But who " began Dorothy Raelton, and 

there was almost eagerness in her voice. Then the 
hopelessness came back. " But it is impossible. 
I know " 

" You know nothing ! Where is your maid ? " 

A terrible expression came to Raelton's face. 

" The maid ! She " The words came like 

curses before the problemist stopped him. 

" The maid is absolutely innocent I Absolutely ! 
Remember that above all things ! " cried Colton. 
" Where is she ? " 

" I sent her to mail a letter so that she 
would be out of the way when we started. I 
wouldn't even trust her," Jimmy Raelton answered 
slowly. 

" To whom was the letter addressed ? " 

" To you. I didn't want to come here, but 
Dorothy insisted." 

" Did you get a letter from the blackmailer this 
morning V y 

Silently Jimmy Raelton took a letter from his 
pocket and extended it. Colton received it eagerly, 
jerked out the inclosure, laid it face down on the 
desk. His hypersensitive finger-tips brushed lightly 
the reversed, raised words the typewriter keys had 
driven through the paper as he read aloud slowly : 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 69 



" Mr. Raelton. 

" Sir, — May be you don't know it, but your wife smokes hop. 
If you don't want the wurld to get wise, send 25 one- thousand- 
dollar bills to lock-box 117, Philadelphia. Don't register. 
We'll take a chance they land safe. If you're too up in the air 
to-day give you till to-morrow, but put a personal in the Telegram 
saying when. And do it, too ! " 

The blind man paused an instant, then con- 
tinued : " The fact that they want the money in 
thousand-dollar bills proves that the blackmailers 
are persons who can pass them without question, 
despite the childish attempt at illiteracy. They 
also know that the money would arrive safely 
without registry, which would necessitate signing 
a receipt. The fact that they want the money sent 
to a place so easily watched as a public lock-box 
proves that they have some means of getting their 
hands on it before it gets there ! " 

He grasped the telephone. " Six thousand 
Greeley. Telegram ? Take a personal for the next 
edition. Ready? ' Lock-box 117. Not even twenty- 
five cents. — J. R.' That's all. On the street in 
an hour ? Charge it to Thornley Colton. Right." 

They listened, white-faced ; he shot a question 
at Dorothy before a protest could be voiced : 

" Have you ever called in Doctor Henry ? " 

" There are things one can't tell even one's 
physician," she said simply. " Jimmy called him, 
once, when he thought I was suffering from nervous 
break-down. Doctor Henry never suspected, couldn't 
suspect. He told Jimmy that his plans for a two 
months' cruise were excellent. That is the only 
time I have seen him during this awful six months. 
He has dropped in several times to see the children, 
but I have been out." 

" A curious coincidence," mused Colton idly ; 
then his questions took a new turn. " You had no 
suspicion that your sister was an opium fiend ? " 



70 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



"No— I wouldn't have believed— if " The 

words choked in her throat. 

" Didn't you drift apart after her marriage ? " 

" Donald Wreye turned out a cad ! " blurted 
Raelton. " You know that as well as I ! He spent 
every cent of Marjorie's money. There wasn't a 
penny of the hundred thousand her father left 
when she died. Wreye tried to borrow ten thousand 
from me five months ago, and I ordered him from 
the house ! " 

" Five months ago ? " murmured Colton. " He 
must have got it from someone. I know he was 
on the ragged edge about that time." He turned 
away from them and jabbed two desk-buttons, 
" You are going back home now. I want you 
to slip in the way you came. Shrimp will go with 
you." 

He turned to face The Fee, who had answered 
one button. ' ' The reporters will probably hold 
you up, thinking you servants. Let Mr. and Mrs. 
Raelton slip past, then let the newspaper men get 
the information that Mrs. Raelton had a serious 
heart-attack, also that Doctor Henry was asked 
not to divulge the fact that he had been called. 
I've rung for the machine. It will take you within 
two or three blocks of your home. Walk the rest 
of the way, and stay indoors until you hear from 
me. Now this is important : I want you to give 
Shrimp two of the headache powders you have been 
taking, without the knowledge of the maid or any 
one else. Can you ? " 

Mrs. Raelton nodded dumbly. 

" No one is to know that you have seen me. 
No one ! " 

He sat down at the desk and wrote rapidly for a 
moment. 

" Send this telegram on your way back, Shrimp, 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 71 



and tell Michael not to wait for you. Sydney and 
I want to use the machine." 

He held out his hands to the man and woman. 
" Good-bye, for a little while," he said. Silently 
he watched them out, then he turned toward 
Sydney. 

" Tell John to serve us a cold lunch immediately." 
For the first time in an hour Sydney Thames 
spoke. " Where are we going ? " he asked curiously. 
" To see Donald Wreye." 

III. 

Society had never called the marriage of Marjorie 
Calvin and Donald Wreye a brilliant one. Seven 
years before Marjorie had entered New York 
society, and society had knelt at her feet. She had 
many offers of marriage ; all were laughed aside. 
Then came Donald Wreye, big, blond, masterful. 
He carried the little black-haired girl off her feet, 
swept the other suitors aside like chaff. He had 
neither money nor family. By sheer doggedness he 
had fought his way to a ten-thousand-dollar position 
in the Street. Society had pleaded with Marjorie 
Calvin. Thornley Colton had pleaded. But she 
loved with the love that only women of the South- 
land feel. They eloped. 

For five years the marriage had seemed ideal. 
Then came the last year. Marjorie's sunny nature 
changed completely. Wreye was constantly at his 
club, drinking, gambling. Thornley Colton was 
received almost coldly by the girl he loved as a 
daughter. Then she was found in her room, the 
pistol she had used beside her. 

Wreye cast restraint to the winds then. His 
position was lost because of dissipation. He had 
opened an office of his own, and although he was 



72 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



known to do comparatively little business, for the 
past few months he had seemed to have plenty of 
money. But to the men and women he had known 
in the old days he became a pariah. 

And it was to his office that Colton and Sydney 
Thames started in the big machine an hour later. 
The blind man's lips were a thin, straight line ; 
the bloodless face sinister in its grimness. What his 
thoughts were none could tell. Sydney's were a 
maze of conflict. The astounding assertion of 
Colton's that Dorothy Raelton had never smoked 
opium had carried him off his feet, mentally, when 
it was made, but now, with sober afterthought, 
came the utter absurdity of it. Dorothy had known 
— known — that the blind craving could only be 
satisfied by the drug, and she had used it. It was 
not within the range of human possibility that she 
could be mistaken. And they had seen. 

The car came to a stop before a tall office-building 
near Wall Street. Colton, cane in hand, stepped 
to the side-walk, and, with only the touch of Sydney's 
sleeve against his to guide him, made his way to 
the elevator. On an upper floor they halted before 
the door with its plain announcement : 

" Donald Wreye, Broker. Odd Lots." 

Following Thornley Colton's knock came the 
slam of a hastily-shut drawer, and a gruff invita- 
tion to enter. The smile of welcome faded as the 
heavy-featured man with the tawny hair saw his 
visitors. 

" Well ? " he snapped ungraciously, slumping 
into the swivel chair without even inviting them 
to be seated. 

Thornley Colton's slim stick located a chair before 
he answered. " You won't be well very long unless 
you keep away from that black bottle in the drawer," 
he said grimly, 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 73 



Wreye jumped to his feet with an oath. " That 
bottle's my own affair," he snarled. " I'll drink 
when I damn' please ! I'm not in your bootlicking 

set any more. I got " He stopped suddenly. 

" Get down to cases ! This is my busy day." 

The blind man picked up the chair and placed it 
directly before the big man, not two feet from him. 
" I want you to answer a few questions." He said 
it simply, quietly, but some indefinable timbre of 
his voice made it a command. 

" I'll answer if I see fit ! " blustered Wreye. 

" You'll answer whether you want to or not." 
Still that quiet voice ; the velvet covering for the 
will of steel beneath it. Sydney Thames held his 
breath as he watched the two men. One, a veritable 
giant, clumsy in his very bigness, face flushed with 
anger and liquor ; the other, half a head shorter, 
with the chest and shoulders of an athlete, belied 
by the well-tailored slimness the faultless clothes 
gave him ; face and hair white, accentuated by the 
big circles of the smoked library-glasses, his cane, 
held idly between the slim, supersensitive fingers, 
touching the floor a few inches from Donald Wreye's 
foot. 

" I'll see about that ! " blustered Wreye, and the 
words seemed foolishly puerile. 

" When did you first discover that your wife was 
an opium fiend ? " It was put so unexpectedly, so 
baldly, that even Sydney Thames gasped. 

The livid fury mounted to the face of Wreye. 

" By God ! You " His voice trembled with 

unleashed passion. 

Knife-like Thornley Colton's voice cut in : 
" Answer me ! " 

And, like lightning, the answer came — a vicious, 
smashing right fist straight at the face of the seated 
blind man ! 



74 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



The exact sequence of ensuing events could never 
be told by Sydney, for the simple reason that his 
eyes were incapable of following the moves of the 
man who was sightless. He remembered leaping to 
his feet with a cry of horror as the blind man's chair 
toppled over. Then he saw a purple-faced, cursing 
man straining and tugging to release the arms that 
were being slowly doubled behind him. A crash of 
a great body hurled downward in the heavy swivel 
chair, and Thornley Colton, unruffled, breathing 
accelerated but a trifle, straightened the tortoise- 
rimmed glasses and smiled down at the man he 
liad so easily mastered. 

Mechanically Sydney righted the chair and picked 
up the blind man's cane. 

" Thanks," murmured Colton absently, and 
Sydney Thames gasped in amazement at the smile 
he saw on the thin lips of the problemist. It was a 
smile of pure joy ; the joy of a man who has learned 
something more easily than he had expected. 

" Don't you know that a seated man can't leap 
to his feet without a warning move of the foot on 
the floor ? " Thornley Colton asked quietly. " My 
cane told me what you were going to do the instant 
you knew yourself. Do you want to proceed 
conversationally or physically ? " he finished 
grimly. 

" I could kill you for that ! " The big man's 
voice was like a sob. 

" It was raw," apologized Colton, but both knew 
he was referring to the question he had asked, and 
not the vicious blow, or the struggle. Then the 
menace came again to his voice. " Where did you 
get that ten thousand you needed so badly five 
months ago ? " 

The effect of this question was fully as startling, 
in a totally different way, to Sydney Thames as 



UNTO TEE THIRD GENERATION 75 



the other had been. The red rage receded from 
Wreye's face, the snarl went from the lips ; a 
sneering smile came. 

" So you come from my lily-fingered brother-in- 
law, eh ? Hasn't got the nerve to come himself, 
I suppose ? " 

" Where did you get it ? " repeated Colton. 

" Oh, I'll tell you quick enough. J got it from 
Jimmy Baelton ! " 

If this reply was unexpected, it did not cause 
the slightest change of expression on the face of 
Thornley Colton. 

" Quite strange that he should have given you 
the money after he had so emphatically refused it 
once before, wasn't it ? " he observed quietly. 

The black scowl came back to Donald Wreye's 
face. " The letter that came with the money was 
devilish plain. The ten thousand was to keep me 
away from him and his wife. I was told that I'd 
get something worse than mere loss of position if 
I even told where it came from. Now I suppose 
he wants it back." 

" Oh, no," assured Colton, as he rose. " He 
doesn't even know I'm here." . 

" What do you want, then ? " There was snarling 
suspicion in the voice now. 

" Information — which I got." The blind man 
smiled down curiously at the scowling man ; then 
the smile went as quickly as it came. " What 
became of Marjorie's hundred thousand dollars ? " 
he jerked out. 

" She " Wreye's jaws snapped together, 

the big shoulders hunched aggressively. " If 
you're so damn' clever, find out ! " he challenged 
sullenly. 

Sydney Thames could see the man's huge muscles 
tighten under the coat, as if he expected force once 



76 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



more, and was prepared to meet it. But Colt on 
only nodded and turned toward the door. 

" I will," he promised grimly. " And I'm going 
to have you on hand when I make the discovery." 

It was not until they were on the side- walk outside 
that a word was spoken. 

" A man like that makes my blood boil ! " 
ejaculated Sydney Thames. 

" Yes ? " replied the blind man seriously, but 
the rising inflection made it enigmatical. His 
beckoning finger brought a leather-lunged newsboy. 

" Latest Telegram ? " 

It was thrust into his hand. 

' ' Did Shrimp see the reporters, Sydney ? " he 
asked, as he handed the paper to Thames and 
stepped into the car. 

" The heart-stroke story is on the first page." 

" Good ! Then the advertisement I telephoned 
must be in. Take us to Doctor Henry's home, 
Michael." 

IV. 

With plenty of money, a distinguished appearance, 
and the manners of a courtier, Doctor Charles V. 
Henry had entered New York society three years 
before, with letters of introduction from prominent 
men and women in Paris. He soon opened an office 
in the fashionable up- town residential district. He 
had an independent fortune — his bachelor apart- 
ments cost him fifteen thousand a year — but it 
pleased him to follow his profession, and when 
Doctor Grayton died he fell natural heir to his 
society practice. 

" Do not tell me that you are ill, Mr. Colton ! " 
he laughed, as he ushered the blind man and Sydney 
into his quietly luxurious office half an hour after 
they had left Donald Wreye. 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 77 



" Old Hippocrates and I are sworn enemies," 
smiled the problemist. " I came to get a little 
professional information. ,, 

" Yes ? " politely from the physician, as he 
accepted a proffered cigarette. 

"It is this." Colton spoke seriously ; all trace 
of the smile had gone. " Is there any medicinal 
cure for opium craving ? " 

The heavy lashes of the doctor veiled his eyes 
as he looked down thoughtfully at the floor. " There 
are several reputed cures," he said finally. " The 
most effective, and simple, probably, is rice powder 
and morphia. The morphia satisfies the violent 
craving at first, then the drug is diminished gradu- 
ally, until the patient is satisfied with the harmless 
rice powder. This is effective, however, only in the 
first stages." 

" I am speaking of atavistic craving. The opium 
craving, having skipped one generation, appears 
doubly strong in the next." 

" You mention a rare case," said Doctor Henry 
slowly ; " and an incurable one. The effect of 
opium smoking, primarily, is a sensation of the 
nerves, or, rather, lack of sensation. The nerves 
feel the craving first. When that craving finds 
lodgment in the brain, the case is hopeless. With 
the inherited craving the process is absolutely 
reversed. The seat of the trouble is in the brain 
before the nerves know the drug, and when the 
nerves once feel the satisfied craving, it becomes a 
monomania. There is no cure." 

For a full minute there was silence in the office. 
Thornley Colton blew thoughtful smoke-rings 
toward the ceiling. Sydney Thames was conscious 
of a strange, new feeling toward the man he loved ; 
the man who had picked him up as a bundle of baby- 
clothes on the banks of the English river that had 



78 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



given him the only name he had ever known. The 
feeling was almost bitter. He could not keep his 
mind from the man and woman that Colton had 
sent back to their home but a short time before, 
full of hope, of joy. Now he realized that the words 
had been but empty encouragement. And there 
was no hope ! 

Thornley Colton spoke again. " I disagree with 
you, doctor. There is a cure ! " He had risen to 
his feet ; his voice trembled with vehemence. 

The physician, startled from his usual professional 
calmness, was on his feet, staring. Colton took a 
step forward, stumbled blindly against a chair, his 
hands thrust out gropingly. Before Sydney Thames 
could reach him, Doctor Henry was again the cool 
physician. He extended a hand, and led the blind 
man back to his seat. 

" I forgot myself," apologized the blind man 
huskily. " This thing has unnerved me." He 
swallowed hard, his voice became normal. " The 
time for equivocation is past, doctor ; I'm going 
to be frank. Dorothy Raelton is an opium fiend ! " 

The physician half rose again from his chair in 
amazement. " Why — why — such a thing is in- 
credible ! " he gasped. 

Briefly, dispassionately, Colton told him of the 
night before. " Now," he continued, " for the 
cure." Again there was excitement in his voice. 
" Early to-morrow morning the Raeltons start for 
a year's cruise on their yacht. I am making all the 
arrangements. They will go to the South Pacific, 
and keep wholly out of touch with the world, Mrs. 
Raelton will not take her maid, Jimmy will not even 
have his man. They will be absolutely alone, except 
for the crew. What do you think of that ? " 

Doctor Henry's fingers ceased their nervous 
drumming on the chair-arm, his lowered eyes raised. 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 79 



" It may be effective," he admitted, in his deepest 
professional tones. "At what time — do they start V 

" With the seven-o'clock tide. To-night Mrs. 
E-aelton is going to receive a few intimate friends, 
and explain last night's postponement. By the 
way " — he took the newspaper he had purchased 
from his pocket — " I used your name in explaining 
to the reporters the cause of last night's affair. I 
knew you wouldn't object." The physician took 
the paper eagerly. 

The problemist was almost to the door before he 
remembered another question. " Did you ever 
suspect that Mrs. Donald Wreye was an opium 
fiend ? " he asked. 

The unexpectedness of the question made Doctor 
Henry forget his usual suave manner for an instant, 
and his voice was almost sharp as he replied : 

" She was not I Her death was " He stopped 

suddenly ; then, in a different tone, " I am going 
to meet your frankness with frankness," he said 
slowly. " I have always thought Mrs. Wreye's 
suicide was a natural result of an utter breaking 
of her hypersensitive nervous system." 

" Her husband ? " put in Colton. 

" Yes ! " emphatically. 

" Marjorie Wreye's death was not a suicide ! " 
Colton spoke quietly, but in his tone was that 
ominous menace Sydney Thames had noticed so 
many times that day. " It was deliberate murder I 
Good-day, doctor." 

He extended his hand. It was taken by the 
serious-faced physician. Thornley Colton nodded 
a jerky farewell, and hurried from the office, his 
brain automatically counting the steps it had 
registered when he entered. 

In the car, speeding homeward, Sydney Thames 
drew a long breath. 



80 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



" Great Scott ! " he murmured. " What a 
villain he is ! " 

" Doctor Henry ? " There was mild surprise in 
the blind man's voice. 

" Donald Wreye," corrected Sydney shortly. 
" Hanging is too good for him ! " 

" Did you notice the almost curious resemblance 
between the deep professional tones of Doctor 
Henry and the ordinary voice of Wreye ? " asked 
the problemist seriously. 

Without giving Thames a chance to reply he 
leaned forward to speak to the driver. " Take us 
to the nearest drug-store telephone pay-station, 
Michael, " he ordered. And as the car turned in 
toward the curb he explained to Sydney : "I must 
tell the Raeltons of my plans ; also get twenty 
grains of trional and a heavy rubber band. Trional 
is one of the few harmless narcotics. The rubber 
band is highly important. It is gotng to trap the 
most inhuman criminal I have ever known I " 

V. 

Sydney Thames paced the library floor impatiently. 
Where was Thornley Colt on ? For three hours he 
had asked himself that question. The blind pro- 
blemist had spent fully half an hour in the closed tele- 
phone booth at the drug-store after he had purchased 
two morphia powders and half a dozen strong rubber 
bands. Then, when Michael had driven them home, 
Sydney had been curtly ordered from the machine, 
and the eager-eyed Shrimp had taken his place as 
guide. 

As he walked he tried to piece together the events 
of the day ; to discover some loose end in the snarl 
of circumstances. But his mind refused to find 
logic in the tangle of statements, of events that 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 



81 



apparently led nowhere. Donald Wreye was a 
villain. He had driven his wife to suicide after 
squandering her fortune. That was certain. But 
what part had he in the life of Dorothy Raelton ? 
Why had Jimmy Raelton secretly sent him ten 
thousand dollars after openly refusing it ? Why 
had Raelton pretended such bitterness against his 
brother-in-law that morning ? Why had Colton 
made the astounding statement that Dorothy 
Raelton had never smoked opium, and then sought 
a physician's advice for a possible cure ? Why 
had the blind man remarked the similarity of 
Donald Wreye's voice to that of Doctor Henry ? 
These, and a hundred more, raced back and forth 
through his brain like a flying shuttle. He took out 
his watch for the fiftieth time ; then turned eagerly 
as the blind man hurried into the room. 

With a sigh of weariness Thornley Colton dropped 
into a chair and lighted a cigarette ; when he spoke 
there was weariness in his voice. 

" A strange case, Sydney," he said slowly, as 
though he had accepted this first quiet opportunity 
for retrospection. " The strangest I have ever 
known. A crime so damnably ingenious that even 
I — who have made a study of crime and criminals 
for years — did not recognize it. A crime so infernally 
clever that even the victim refuses to believe that 
it is a crime. A criminal who could confess 
this minute, and be laughed to scorn by any jury 
in the land. It is a crime unique in the annals of 
crime." 

He took a telegram from his pocket. " Here is 
the answer to a query I sent regarding the lock- 
box in Philadelphia." 

Sydney took it and read : 

" Lock-box 117 one of six rented to Philadelphia Insurance 
Co. for past five years." 



82 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



" That means an accomplice there ! " ejaculated 
Sydney. 

" It proves my former statement that the black- 
mailer never allowed the money to get to that box. 
And there could be only one method of interception 
in this case. It was never mailed ! " 

4 ' But Mrs. Raelton said " began Sydney 

dazedly. 

" She also said she was an opium fiend," inter- 
rupted Colton brusquely. Again his hand went 
to his pocket ; on his palm as he extended it 
were two white, folded papers. " These are the 
powders Shrimp brought. The papers have been 
changed by me, but these powders have been used 
to mask the weapon of a fiend. Get me a glass of 
water." 

Mechanically Sydney obeyed. He returned in a 
moment with the water and a question. 

" But Mrs. Raelton declared that Doctor Grayton 
had given her those powders ? " he objected. 

" Yes." Thornley Colton carefully unfolded one. 
" And Doctor Grayton has been dead two years." 
He held the paper, opened, between his thumb and 
forefinger. " These powders were used to cause the 
suicide of Marjorie Wreye and make Dorothy 
Raelton, to all intents and purposes, an opium 
fiend ! " He raised the powder to his Hps, dropped 
it on his tongue. Sydney could not repress a gasp 
of horror. The blind man took a sip of the water, 
and stood up, fingers feeling the crystalless watch 
in his pocket. "It is seven o'clock, Sydney, time 
we were starting for the Raelton home. The 
machine is waiting." 

Thames licked his dry lips. " My God, Thorn ! " 
he choked. " It isn't — poison ? " 

" No." The blind man's smile held no humour. 
" These powders are perfectly harmless. Doctor 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 83 



Grayton was a careful practitioner, and his pre- 
scriptions have helped my headaches before." 

" But what — how " gulped Sydney, amazed 

into incoherence by this new convolution. 

" I'll tell you later," promised Thornley Colton. 
" I can't now. There is too much at stake to spoil 
with premature explanations." 

He took his hat and coat from the tree, and 
hurried down the stairs, Sydney following. In the 
automobile the blind man lay back in the deep 
seat, only rousing when the machine came to a stop 
before the Raelton home. The awning canopy was 
gone now ; there was no waiting crowd. Another 
machine came to a stop behind them ; where it had 
come from Sydney did not know. Then came a 
feminine greeting ; the blind man lifted his hat, 
and hurried to the other car unerringly. 

" How are you, Mrs. Neilton, and you, Mrs. 
Bracken, also your husbands ? " The assumed 
cheeriness in the voice seemed perfect to the listening 
Sydney Thames. As the blind man assisted the 
women to alight, Thames was surprised to note 
that they were all strangers to him. As Colton's 
constant companion and guide he knew most of the 
blind man's friends, though his memory of faces 
was not to be compared with the blind problemist's 
wonderful memory of voices. 

Sydney was introduced to the men and women 
as Thornley Colton's secretary ; they were pre- 
sented to him as friends of the Jimmy Raeltons, 
who had come to see them on the eve of the departure 
for the South Pacific. 

Together they mounted the steps. Thornley 
Colton rang the bell. And the door was opened 
by the red-haired Shrimp ! 

" The servants is all gone," explained the boy, 
as he closed the door after them. " All but Mrs. 



84 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



Raelton's maid. Mr. Raelton's in the Moorish 
room." 

But at the first sound of their voices Jimmy 
Raelton had hurried out to meet them ; his face 
was still haggard, and in the eyes was a piteous 
expression of pleading. 

" Where is Mrs. Raelton ? " asked Thornley 
Colton quietly. 

" She is lying down. I'll call her." Raelton 
had not even nodded to the two men and the 
women who were quietly watching. 
r " Wait ! " Thornley Colton grasped his arm. 
Some one was coming up the steps outside. The 
door-bell rang. Shrimp opened it, and into the hall 
stumbled Donald Wreye ! His bloodshot eyes 
blinked in the bright light as he glared at them, 
his hands twitched at his sides. He hunched his 
great shoulders, and clenched his fists to get a grip 
on himself. 

" Where's " he began, in the deep, hoarse 

voice so like that of the physician. 

From above them came a frightened scream — a 
woman's scream. 

" Mr. Raelton ! Mr. Raelton ! " It was the 
maid. 

He bounded toward the stairs, the others at his 
heels. At the top was the maid, weeping and 
wringing her hands. 

" She told me to get myself something to eat, and 
I wasn't downstairs twenty minutes," she cried 
hysterically. " And I found her " 

Jimmy Raelton dashed past her. Sydney felt 
Colton brush past him, and realized that somehow 
he had gotten behind the others when they started. 

At the door of the room where they had stopped 
the night before they halted again. The door was 
not even closed this time, and once more their eyes 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 



85 



took in the same scene. But the electrics were out 
now, only the flickering rays of the sweet-oil lamp 
shone on the sleeping woman and the opium-pipe 
at her side. 

" My God ! Again ! " The words came in sobs 
from Jimmy R-aelton. 

He tried to leap forward, but the outstretched 
hand of Thornley Colt on stopped him. Then the 
others saw the blind man dart across the room to 
the bed without a false move ; saw him pick up a 
white, dangling arm, brush his fingers up the whole 
length of it, under the flowing sleeve of the loose 
kimono, then stop at the wrist. They were all 
around him now. He straightened up to face them. 

" It's something more, this time/' he said huskily. 
" Mrs. Raelton is dead ! " 

" Dead I " the terror-stricken word came from the 
maid. The others seemed suddenly turned to stone. 

Silently Colton held the arm for her to feel the 
pulse. Her fingers found the artery, her face went 
dead white. They could hear the fluttering gasp 
of her breath as she dropped the arm. 

Raelton brushed past her ; his trembling fingers 
searched for a single faint heart-beat. A cry of 
agony burst from him. Colton gently drew him 
away. 

" Phone Doctor Henry, Dora ! " he ordered 
sharply. Then he seemed to sense that the maid 
was staring at Donald Wreye, who stood in the 
centre of the room, swaying back and forth, hands 
clenching and unclenching at his sides. 

" You, Wreye ! " 

The blind man's voice seemed to galvanize 
Donald Wreye into action. He whipped a revolver 
from his pocket. 

" Like Marjorie, eh ? " His laugh seemed insane. 
" Get out of here, all of you ! " 



86 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



He stood beside the door-way, the revolver 
threateningly sweeping the silent men and women. 
Jimmy Raelton tensed his body for a spring, but 
Thornley Colton's hand viced his arm. 

" We can do nothing, " he whispered. 

Like sheep they filed past the menacing pistol, 
the two men and women who had met them outside 
going first. In the hall-way they stopped. 

" Straight ahead ! " ordered Wreye. He spoke 
over his shoulder to the maid. ' ' Call Doctor 
Henry," he sneered. " Go downstairs and call 
him." 

The girl's limbs seemed hardly able to support 
her as she walked past him to the head of the stairs. 
He turned his attention again to the driven men 
and women. Sydney's eyes caught a glimpse of a 
portiered door- way at their left, but Colton's grip 
on his arm held him. Down the hall they went. 
A door was open at the extreme end, the key in the 
outside of the lock. 

" In there, all of you ! " ordered Wreye. 

The women stumbled in. The men followed. 
The door slammed behind them. The key turned. 
Outside they heard running footsteps. 

" He's gone down the backstairs," muttered one 
of the men. 

The dot of light at the keyhole disappeared. 

" He's put out the lights," hoarsely whispered 
the other. 

Thornley Colton took something from his pocket. 
He inserted it in the keyhole ; they heard the bolt 
slip back. 

" He'll return," he whispered. " You four stay 
here and kick at the door. The darkness means 
nothing to me. I'm going to take Sydney and 
Raelton outside to watch. Give us a minute, and 
then begin your noise." 



ONTO THE THIRD GENERATION 87 



He opened the door without a sound. His hands 
on the two men's arms drew them out. The black- 
ness of the unlighted hall was impenetrable, but 
the blind man pulled them forward almost on a 
run. Sydney's feet mechanically obeyed the pulling 
arm ; Raelton, still in a daze, was merely an auto- 
maton obeying the will of a master. The blind 
man thrust them through the portieres Sydney had 
noticed before. 

" Not a sound ! " he warned, as he dragged them 
down to the floor, his fingers biting deep into their 
arms. 

The house echoed with the blows of feet and fists 
on the door of the room they had just left. A 
door slammed downstairs. They heard the voice 
of The Fee, shrill with fright. 

" Dere all locked in back ! " 

Hurried footsteps sounded on the stairs. They 
heard a woman's voice whisper ; a man's deep, 
hoarse voice in answer. Sydney's muscles grew 
tense. It was the heavy voice of Donald 
Wreye ! 

" She's dead, I tell you ! " trembled the maid. 
They were passing the door now. 

The man's answering whisper sounded like the 
growling of an animal. " You little fool ! " he 
hissed. " You let the other get away from us, 
and this one was worth a million " 

The words ended in a woman's scream. They 
heard the sound of a falling body. A man's curse. 
A short struggle. Then the dull impact of fist 
against flesh. Thornley Colton's gripping hands 
relaxed. He jumped through the sheltering 
portieres. His voice cut the darkness : 

" Stop, Wreye, stop ! Doctor Henry is uncon- 
scious ! Shrimp 1 " 

The incandescents leaped to light. 



83 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



On the floor was the maid, senseless. Near her 
was Doctor Henry, limp, torn, his face bruised 
and beaten. Standing over him was Donald Wreye, 
panting, trembling. 

The two men who had stayed in the locked room 
came running forward, shining handcuffs in their 
hands. 

" Handcuff Mrs. Henry," ordered Colton. "She 
has only fainted." He turned to face the still- 
dazed Jimmy Raelton and Sydney. " There is the 
atavistic vampire ! " He touched the limp body 
of the physician as though it was a snake. " God 
knows how many lives he has ruined with his 
devilish schemes. He blackmailed Marjorie Wreye 
out of a hundred thousand dollars, and murdered 
her as surely as though his finger had pulled the 
trigger that sent the bullet crashing into her brain. 
He made Donald Wreye a pariah. And he almost 
succeeded in ruining the lives of you and Dorothy." 

The name aroused Jimmy Raelton. 

" Dorothy ! " he cried brokenly. " He killed 
Dorothy ! " 

The blind man's hand fell gently on his shoulder. 
" It was necessary that she should sleep through 
it all," he said quietly. " I didn't think she could 
stand another dose of the doctor's morphia, so the 
powder she took was trional powder. She will 
wake in an hour, suffering no ill effects. If you'll 
remove the tight rubber band I put on her arm 
under the kimono sleeve the blood will flow back 
through the pulse." 

VI. 

Sydney and Thornley Colton were back in the 
library of the old-fashioned house. The blind man 
had removed the tortoise-rimmed glasses, and 
around his head and over his eyes was an alcohol- 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 89 



soaked bandage to relieve the splitting headache 
the loss of his usual four hours of darkness in the 
afternoon had produced. 

" Yes, it was melodrama, Sydney/' he admitted. 
" But it was necessary. It was carefully staged to 
shatter the nerves of the cool Dora, and arouse the 
doctor's anger at what he thought was a mistake 
of his accomplice. That last resulted in the angry 
confession we overheard. I knew his temper would 
give way under certain conditions, and I made 
those conditions. Shrimp was stationed down- 
stairs to let him in at the proper moment, and also 
to keep the maid and the doctor from confidences 
until they were upstairs, where they could hear 
the door-pounding, and would suppose we were all 
together. Of course, the quartet of men and women 
were private detectives posing as guests to deceive 
the maid. They were stationed around the corner 
with orders to follow right behind us. Wreye was 
across the street from the Raelton house, so that 
he could run over and ring the bell a moment after 
we entered." 

" But how did Doctor Henry happen to be there? " 
demanded the puzzled Sydney. 

" Shrimp, mimicking the maid's voice, called him 
up the minute our machine appeared, and told him 
that Mrs. Raelton was dead. He rang off before 
the doctor could get in a word. But that gave 
Henry all the time he needed to get there. Shrimp 
says the physician fumed and fretted in the vestibule 
fully three minutes before the boy heard the door- 
pounding that was the signal to admit him." 

" But I thought Donald Wreye " began 

Sydney helplessly. 

" It was Doctor Henry and the maid from the 
first. Pure elimination and the headache powders 
told me that." 



90 



TEE SECOND PROBLEM 



" But you said the powders were harmless , 
that Doctor Gray ton was careful/' objected Sydney. 

" Their harmlessness was the crux. It put them 
above suspicion, but when it became necessary to 
impress Dorothy Raelton with the fact that she 
was a hopeless opium fiend the powder the maid 
gave her was a heavy dose of morphia, which is 
the base of opium, and produces almost the same 
after-effects. Of course, as soon as Dorothy became 
unconscious the outfit was arranged for her awaken- 
ing. Dorothy's highly-strung nervous system, like 
that of her sister, made it easy for a strong mind 
like that of the maid to make her know — know — 
that she had smoked the drug in a blind delirium 
of craving. And the wonderful suggestive stories 
of the maid, and the fake finger-marks on her 
throat, made the thing complete. I understood 
them all when I heard of the blackmail, but it was 
necessary to impress the Raeltons with Dora's 
innocence so that she would be unsuspicious until 
the time came for the denouement. 

" The ten thousand I knew Wreye must have got 
puzzled me at first, though it didn't seem possible 
that he could be in the plot. The interview in the 
morning proved his utter incapability of such a thing. 
The game required a cool, iron-nerved man. His 
actions during our talk proved conclusively that he 
was neither. Five minutes' conversation with 
Doctor Henry gave me all I wanted to know. His 
coolness, his nerve, the fact that he had called at 
the Raelton home several times when Mrs. Raelton 
was out, ostensibly to see the children, but really 
to see the maid, the clever way he blamed Wreye 
for Marjorie's suicide, his eager desire to know at 
what time the Raeltons sailed in the morning, the 
manner in which he took the paper he knew should 
contain the personal, were all guide-posts on the 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 91 



right track. His beautifully clever explanation why 
the opium craving I described could not be allevi- 
ated was intended to show me my helplessness. 
But it gave me what I wanted. Pretending to 
stumble, I got his hand in mine ; my finger was on 
his pulse — the Keyboard of Silence. He knew I 
was going to tell him of Dorothy ! Though his face 
was a mask, his heart-beats showed the nervousness 
underneath ; the nervousness no eye could have 
detected. That was the final proof. 

" Then I realized his real cleverness. He had sent 
the money to Wreye with a forged note, apparently 
from Raelton. The maid had undoubtedly told him 
of Wreye's need and attempt to borrow from his 
brother-in-law, and the doctor was afraid that 
Wreye, in a hot-headed rage at continued refusals, 
would blurt out Marjorie's trouble, and cause a 
premature confession from Dorothy before the 
blackmailer had gotten her firmly in his clutches. 
Henry was overlooking no possibility, and the ten 
thousand was a paltry amount, beside what he 
expected to get. Of course, you see how he really 
got the money into his hands ? The envelopes 
containing the bills, given to a trusted maid to mail 
to the fake lock-box, were merely handed over to 
the real vampire. There was no chance of detection. 

" This afternoon Shrimp and I went to Wreye's 
office and explained the whole game to him. He 
refused to believe, at first, because Marjorie had 
confessed five months before her death that she 
was an opium fiend. Wreye was more of a man 
than we ever thought. He hid the fact from the 
world. He let her go her own way. He didn't 
suspect the blackmailing, because Marjorie probably 
feared to tell him, lest his temper should lead him 
to expose the secret in his efforts to seek out the 
blackmailer. And when she died, penniless, he 



92 



THE SECOND PROBLEM 



supposed she had lost her money gambling, the 
usual passion that follows opium smoking. He kept 
quiet, but naturally he was bitter against the whole 
world. 

" But I finally persuaded him to do his part in 
trapping the vampire. Remember the similarity of 
the two voices ? That was my trump card. I 
knew that my story of the Raeltons' early departure 
and the curt advertisement would rouse the doctor 
to drastic action, and force him to call up Dora, 
and give new instructions. That was what I wanted 
— -it would make her unsuspicious when the second 
call I planned came. It worked like a charm. She 
never suspected the voice. It was then, by the 
way, that we learned Dora was really Mrs. Henry, 
and that she was getting tired of her part. We 
learned, also, that Mrs. Raelton was to be given 
an extra heavy dose of morphia, so that it would 
be impossible for her to get away in the morning. 
Doctor Henry needed time, you see. 

" Wreye, impersonating the doctor over the phone, 
gave her new instructions. The same plan was to 
be followed, but the doctor would send her two new 
powders — they were my trional powders ; I wouldn't 
take a chance on morphia again — and she was to 
arrange the opium set as usual, and scream for 
Jimmy as soon as Donald Wreye arrived. Then, if 
anything went wrong, she was to foist suspicion 
upon Wreye, who, she was told, was on the verge 
of delirium tremens, and would be sent by the 
doctor on some pretext. 

" Donald, as you saw, could hardly control 
himself, but that made him perfect in her eyes, 
though I had to stay behind a second after you 
started upstairs to warn him, and I also had to 
give him his cue in the room before he acted. My 
little trick with the rubber band utterly unnerved 



UNTO THE THIRD GENERATION 93 



the maid, who supposed that her husband had 
really sent poison. So, when the doctor got there, 
they were at cross-purposes, and the angry betrayal 
we heard was the logical result." 

For a minute there was silence ; then Sydney 
Thames spoke. " But Wreye, why did you let 
him " There was no need to finish. 

" It was pure brutishness, Sydney," confessed 
Thornley Colton slowly. " The brutishness that 
makes us think of physical revenge before we think 
of the law. There are crimes so foul that we want 
to pound, to tear their perpetrators. The driving 
to death of one innocent girl and the nearly suc- 
cessful attempt to make a mental wreck of Dorothy 
Raelton, who had never known the taste of opium 
smoke in her life, is one of them. My fingers itched 
for Doctor Henry's throat. But Donald Wreye's 
right came first. He took it. I am glad," 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



THE MONEY MACHINES 
I. 

The man in the long blue car was a person of con- 
sequence. The big traffic policeman had stopped 
all north and south traffic, but the chauffeur of the 
blue machine darted in front of a stopped Bowling 
Green car without the slightest slackening of speed, 
and shot between an eastbound slot car and a 
westbound delivery truck. Traffic cop 7389 saluted 
gravely and silenced with a warning scowl the 
snarling driver of a held-up van, who had to reach 
the ten-thirty boat. 

The lone occupant of the roomy tonneau, rigidly 
straight on the cushions, answered the salute with 
a barely perceptible nod of his head, and a half 
smile of the thin, almost bloodless lips. But there 
was no change of expression in the granite-hard 
gray eyes, nor a movement of the straight back. 
One lean hand gripped the tonneau door, the fingers 
resting just above the small silvered monogram on 
the blue enamel ; the other dropped lightly on the seat 
beside his knee. John T. Villers, the power behind 
the throne of Money, was on his way to his office. 

It was characteristic of the man that he did not 
lounge back in his seat ; that his pose was one of 
tense rigidity. No one had ever seen John T. 
Villers relax ; none of the hundreds who knew him 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



95 



thought that he could relax. Alert, watchful, a 
machine for the massing of millions ; a machine 
that never required rest ; that never needed the 
lubrication of pleasure to insure its smooth run- 
ning ; a human mechanism that never deviated a 
hair's breadth from its schedule. Such was the 
king of the kings of finance. 

At ten-fifteen he would be at his office in Wall 
Street. Elsewhere, a monarch of half a million 
fighting men paced the floor of his castle room, 
impatiently awaiting the word that a simple touch 
of a desk button in that Wall Street office would 
bring. Ten thousand yellow coolies, half a world 
away, idled in bamboo-thatched construction huts 
for a stroke of John T. Villers's pen. And he 
answered the salute of a traffic policeman ! 

Men and women on Broadway halted in their 
hurrying to stare at the big blue car, and the silent, 
straight-backed occupant ; for the face and the 
pose of the financier were as familiar to the reading 
public as Broadway itself. Weak-chinned men of 
the unemployed ranks cursed the " luck " that gave 
him money and them hunger. Clerks, from high 
office windows, bemoaned the fate that compelled 
them to commence work at eight and allowed him 
to begin at ten. There was no sign in the hard 
gray eyes of the man who answered the traffic 
men's salutes that the money machine had been 
working until daylight over the inch-thick packet 
of papers now buttoned tightly beneath his coat. 
The machine never showed signs of its running. 

At Murray Street a deeper inclination of the head 
was the honour paid a business friend in a passing 
automobile. At Park Place the blue machine 
skirted ahead of the traffic block where the huge 
Woolworth Building mounted skyward. A taxi 
darted in front of it, tried to cut in ahead ; then 



96 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



stopped. Villers's chauffeur cursed under his breath 
as he swerved toward the curb. The wheels of the 
smooth-running car struck the thin end of a building 
girder, ran over it with a great jolt that jarred the 
car body down on its springs. A fat traffic cop 
hurried across the street just as the stalled taxi 
came to life and scurried down Broadway. The 
blue car had never even paused ; the incident was 
closed. 

The chauffeur bent lower over his wheel so that 
his muttered oaths would not reach the silent man 
behind him, for he knew that his job hung on the 
hair of his employer's morning humour. John T. 
Villers's one rule, whether it be for trusted clerks or 
chauffeurs, was smoothness ; he did not like jolts. 

The next traffic cop, who had sworn sympatheti- 
cally when he saw that jar, let his jaw drop and his 
salute become a gesture of surprise. The lone 
man in the tonneau was lying back in the cushions, 
his eyes closed, the fingers of the hand that had 
been on the door relaxed. 

" 'Tis a tired man he is this mornm'," muttered 
the traffic man in sympathy. 

The car swung into Wall Street, stopped before 
the world-known banking house of Villers. Instantly 
the chauffeur was down, his hand pulled open the 
door. But the machine that never relaxed was 
sleeping. Wonderment came to the face of the 
driver ; then fear. He laid a hand lightly on the 
shoulder of his employer. The breathing man did 
not stir. The fear on the chauffeur's face deepened. 
Mr. Villers must be sick ! 

He obeyed the first instinct, and looked wildly 
around. Relief chased some of the fear away when 
he saw the approaching private watchman, who 
had been stationed before the Villers's house for 
years. 



THE MONET MACHINES 



97 



" Mr. Villers is sick ! " he cried. 

The watchman brushed him aside, and stared at 
the bloodless face with the closed, blue-veined lids. 

" He must 'a' fainted ! " gasped the watchman ; 
and he, too, looked wildly around for help. 

" Can I be of any assistance % " Both jumped 
nervously as the stout, full-bearded man with the 
black satchel spoke. " I am a doctair." He 
enunciated the words slowly, distinctly, with a 
pause after each. 

" Mr. Villers has fainted." They chorused it, 
huge relief in their voices, and stepped back instantly. 

The bearded man stepped to the car, ripped open 
the unconscious man's coat and vest, and placed his 
hand over the beating heart professionally. 

" Heart trouble. Seerious," he told them slowly, 
as if the words caused him trouble. " Tell them 
inside." Both started. He called the watchman 
back. " Spread the robe on the side-walk." The 
watchman's clumsy fingers fumbled with the robe 
as the physician put his ear to the financier's chest, 
muttered an angry ejaculation, and fumbled with 
the black bag at his feet. 

"It's ready, sir." Then the watchman swore 
under his breath at the crowding men and boys 
who had apparently sprung from the very side- walk. 

The big man paid not the slightest attention. 
He lifted the slight form of the man of millions and 
laid it gently on the robe-covered stones. " He 
must go to a hospital," he announced with precise 
distinctness. " I will call the ambu-lance." 

The crowd parted, he hurried through. 

Inside the banker's office the chauffeur blurted 
the news to the multi-millionaire's private secretary, 
utterly unmindful of the two strangers who were 
with him. 

" Fainted ? " echoed the secretary blankly. 

Q 



98 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



" Fainted ? " repeated the red-cheeked, black- 
haired stranger. 

" Men like Villers don't faint. Where is he ? " 
The chauffeur stared at the deep-chested, striking- 
looking man with the wavy white hair, fine as silk, 
and the strong, lean face, whose extreme paleness 
was accentuated by the great blue circles of the 
smoked tortoise-shell library glasses that rested 
lightly on the nose with its delicate, sensitive 
nostrils. " Show me where he is, Sydney." The 
cleft chin was set at an ominous angle, his slim 
stick, apparently of heavy ebony, dangled idly 
between the tapering fingers of his right hand. 

" Can't you see the crowd running ? " The shock 
had made the chauffeur forget that he was only a 
chauffeur ; he jerked his head toward the door he 
had opened so unceremoniously. 

" 1 am blind." The white-haired man said it 
simply, quietly. 

" Come, Thorn." His apple-cheeked secretary led 
the way from the office, the blind man at his heels. 
Villers's private secretary and the chauffeur followed 
dumbly after. 

There were now two policemen to keep the surg- 
ing crowd from the still body of the master of 
millions on the cold side- walk. The outer ranks 
parted for the apple-cheeked man, the blind one 
followed him to the centre. One of the policemen 
mopped his brow in relief as they entered the small 
circle. 

" It looks like heart trouble, Mr. Colton," he 
murmured nervously. 

" Think so, Thompson ? " The end of the slim 
stick touched a knee of the prostrate man lightly. 
Thornley Colton knelt and picked up a lax arm. 
His fingers felt the pulse. 

" That's what the doctor said it was." The 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



99 



watchman licked his dry lips. " He ought to be 
back by now." 

" Doctor ? " snapped the kneeling man, without 
looking up. 

" He laid him there t' call th' ambulance." Once 
more the watchman wet his hps. 

" Who is Mr. Villers's physician ? " The bhnd 
man's finger-tips were lightly brushing the coat-Hning. 

" Doctor Clayton." The private secretary 
answered. 

" Get him. Quick ! " The tone of the voice sent 
a bareheaded clerk who had followed them on the 
jump to obey. 

" Is it a serious heart attack ? " stammered the 
still-dazed private secretary. 

" Heart attack ? No f " The bhnd man spoke 
sharply, crisply. " This is a morphine stupor ! " 

" Morphine ? " gasped the dazed secretary 
incredulously. 

" Yes ! " The word was jerked out, a slim fore- 
finger and thumb raised an eyelid of the prostrate 
man. ' ' See the contracted pupils ? Pin-points 1 " 

" But how Thank Heaven, Mr. MacLaren ! " 

The secretary's voice changed from helpless amaze- 
ment to joyous relief as the square-shouldered, 
square-chinned man with the iron-gray hair pushed 
his way though the crowd. 

" My God ! What does this mean ? " cried the 
new comer. 

The blind man rose, picked up his stick, and 
brushed his trousers knees. 

" It means robbery — now," he said grimly. 
" It will probably mean murder in a few hours ! " 

Dreyfus MacLaren, the one man in all the world 
who enjoyed the full confidence of John T. Villers, 
paced the floor of his office with nervous strides, 
halting at every turn, ears strained to catch the 



100 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



faintest sounds from the inner room, where the 
doctor worked over the unconscious money machine. 
On the street outside, stretching from the sub- 
treasury steps to the dingy buildings where the sugar 
brokers buy and sell, the crowd still waited, whis- 
pered. In the outer room of the financier's office 
came the low-voiced hum of half a hundred news- 
paper men, tensely waiting a word from that inner 
room. At the end of his small office MacLaren 
swung around to face the blind problemist, who 
rolled the thin, hollow stick he always carried 
between his tapering white ringers. 

" My God, Mr. Colton ! " he broke out. " It 
couldn't have happened ! " 

" It did," answered the blind man mildly. 

" But he was in an open automobile ; a thousand 
persons saw him ; he answered the salutes of, 
perhaps, fifty policemen along Broadway. No one 
was near him ; no one could have got near enough 
to render him unconscious with morphine." 

" The fact that he is still in a morphine stupor 
is the best answer to that." Thornley Colton's 
voice was still mild, even gentle. 

" You say that the man who lifted him out of the 
car did not inject the stuff ? " 

" Yes. The bounding pulse my fingers felt told 
me immediately that it had been in the system at 
least ten minutes. The bounding pulse, as it is 
called, is peculiar to morphia. I have made a 
special study of pulse beats." The blind man did 
not add that the pulse, to him, was the Keyboard 
of Silence that told many secrets of the heart to the 
supersensitive finger-tips that always rested on the 
wrist when he shook hands. 

" Then that puts it right up to the chauffeur, 
whom the police arrested," admitted MacLare-u, 
" But I can't see how he did it," he added. 



THE MONET MACHINES 



101 



Sydney Thames, silent in a corner chair, also 
shook his head. 

" He didn't ! " snapped Golton. " If the police 
were forced to use brains instead of feet to hold their 
jobs, there wouldn't be so many fool mistakes made. 
They should have arrested the automobile," he 
finished seriously. 

Before the surprised expression on MacLaren's 
face could be put into words the inner door opened, 
and the grave-faced doctor stood before them. 

" Has Mr. Villers's family been notified ? " he asked. 

" He won't die I " There was utter disbelief in 
MacLaren's tone. 

" He will die," amended the physician quietly. 
" His nerve has been keeping his worn-out body 
going for years ; such an overdose of morphine 
could not but be fatal. I have tried to arouse him, 
but heroic methods would only result in an instant 
stopping of his heart. He will sleep for, perhaps, an 
hour more ; then he will quietly stop breathing." 

" My God, doctor ! That is murder ! " MacLaren's 
great body dropped limply into a chair, his face was 
white. He had refused to believe, before, that the 
master of millions could die. It was impossible. 
The wonderful machine could not stop. Now it 
was silent, useless. 

The doctor was speaking : " There is no doubt 
that a heavy dose of morphia is responsible ; every 
symptom points to it unmistakably, but " — the 
physician stroked his Vandyke perplexedly — " I 
have been unable to find the spot on his body where 
the hypodermic needle entered. I have minutely 
examined the chest, the abdomen, the arms, thighs, 
even the face. It is puzzling, very." 

" Mr. Villers is still lying on his back ? " The 
question was put casually by the blind man, whom 
the physician had not even noticed. 



102 



TEE THIRD PROBLEM 



" Certainly ! " The doctor answered as one 
answers a foolish question. 

" If you will turn him gently on his side for a 
moment you will probably find the broken point 
of the hypodermic needle under his shoulder* 
blade." 

" His back — why " The physician darted 

through the inner door. 

The doctor's going left them silent. MacLaren's 
square shoulders were hunched forward, his eyes 
fixed steadily on the closed door. Sydney Thames, 
in the big leather chair in the corner, was tense, 
rigid. A hundred times he had heard the blind 
man, whom he loved, make a statement of this 
kind. Never had he known him to be wrong ; but 
always did he fear that Thornley Colton would 
make some terrible mistake in his sureness of 
himself. And the sightless problemist smoked his 
cigarette calmly, the great, blue circles of eyes fixed 
on the ceiling above him. The door opened ; the 
doctor faced them. 

' ' The needle had broken under the right shoulder- 
blade — as you said." Doctor Clayton's keen eyes 
bored the blind man with a look of half-suspicion. 

The words seemed to arouse MacLaren ; he 
realized their significance. " How — did — you — 
know — that ? " Each separate word was a gasp. 
" And blind ! " The tone of his voice was a demand 
for explanation. 

" I knew it because of my blindness," explained 
the problemist quietly. " We of the darkness must 
learn to visualize, mentally, what your eyes accept 
unconsciously. We learn to see with our brains, 
you see without them. My whole life has been spent 
in this development of mental visualization. I 
can instantly picture, in my brain, a scene that has 
been given me in pieces by my four other senses, 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



103 



And that mental picture often goes back to events 
that lead up to, and make, the scene. " 

" Do you mean that you can imagine who 
administered the morphine?" asked MacLaren 
incredulously. 

" Not at all ! " There was just a shade of im- 
patience in the tone. " I have no clairvoyant 
powers. I haven't the remotest idea of the guilty 
persons' identity — yet. But I knew Mr. Villers ; 
I knew his habits, just as every man in New York, 
and Europe, too, who reads the papers, knows 
them. He has probably been given more columns 
of newspaper space than any other man who ever 
lived. Everything he did was machine-like, never 
changing ; as sure as the sun and moon. I know 
how he sits in an automobile ; I know the attention 
he attracts. You do, too, but you accepted them 
merely as something too obvious for the brain — as 
merely a routine report of the eyes. So, when I 
felt the unmistakable morphia pulse, an instant's 
thought told me the only possible way it could have 
been administered. The trained mind doesn't have 
to take up time with the consideration of innumer- 
able possibilities ; it is trained to the instant 
ehmination of impossibilities. The back was the 
only place it could have been injected." 

" How ? By whom ? " They chorused it eagerly. 

" By the innocent tool of a master mind : Mr. 
Villers's automobile." 

" The automobile ! What do you mean ? " 
Incredulity, amazement were in the voices of the 
excited men. 

" During the excitement attending the carrying 
of Mr. Villers to his office my fingers were examining 
the cushions of the tonneau. The upholstery had 
been cut in the crease formed by the two tuft buttons, 
about where a man's back would come. A specially 



104 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



made hypodermic was inserted, and the cut sewed. 
Of course, the crease concealed the stitches. No 
one ever used the car but Villers, and every one 
knows how he sits in the machine. You heard the 
statement of the chauffeur before the police arrested 
him. The jolt caused by the girder and the stalled 
taxi in front of the Woolworth Building were all 
that was needed. If that had not succeeded, the 
taxi would have swung in front and caused a 
collision. Then the ' doctor ' would have gotten 
right on the job there, as he did here, when the taxi 
hurried on ahead to be on hand here. The breaking 
of the hypo needle was almost a certainty. It only 
required the barest fraction of an instant for the 
stuff to enter the body, and the broken needle 
would at once destroy the instrument and make 
its presence for some time unsuspected by any one 
sitting in the car." 

" How fiendish,' ' murmured Doctor Clayton, and 
the words seemed puerile. 

MacLaren shook his head, as if to clear the cob- 
webs from his usually alert brain ; then he leaped 
to his feet, totally unmindful of the dying man in 
the next room. 

" Colton, he can't die ! The quarter-billion Chinese 
loan must be put through to-day. The new German 
bond bid is being held open for us till midnight. 
Another twenty-four hours' delay means that we 
lose both. He had all the data, the papers ! They 
were — • — " 

" Stolen," finished Thornley Colton quietly. 
" That was the object of the game — as I told you 
outside." 

" I never thought of them J " In MacLaren's 
voice was the strong man's contrition for an un- 
pardonable oversight. His teeth snapped together 
with the squaring of his jaw as he paced the room 



TEE MONEY MACHINES 



105 



before the silent blind man and the red-cheeked, 
black-haired Sydney Thames. Behind the closed 
door they could hear the hum of the doctor's voice, 
as he tried vainly to call up the Villers's up-town 
house ; though a hundred thousand black-typed 
extras were on the street telling of the racing special 
train that was bringing the family to the city and 
the dying man. 

MacLaren made a circuit of the office before he 
stopped in front of the blind man, who idly twirled 
his cane. The sudden stopping of the machine 
that he had thought could not stop had unnerved 
him completely, driven every other thought from his 
mind. But theft was something he understood. It 
meant money. MacLaren, too, was a money machine. 

" The loss of those papers means millions ! " He 
was calm now, with the calm of deadly earnestness. 
" More than that ! The stealing of those data Mr. 
Villers had means that the United States will be 
frozen out of both the Chinese and German loans. 
You know how we had to fight for the chance ! 
Ours is the only American banking house that could 
handle them. All the figures were prepared by Mr. 
Villers, and you know his invariable rule to hold 
things like this until his last minute of grace. Those 
papers must be recovered before midnight 1 Even 
the murder — there seems to be no doubt that it 
will be murder — pales into insignificance beside 
this, and " — there was a curious catch in his voice 
— " God knows I loved John T. Villers. But the 
loss of that Chinese loan means that the United 
States won't have a say in the new republic ; that 
American interests will be crowded out by the 
powers who control China financially. Every last 
detail was in those papers he was to have ready 
to-day. Think of the German loan ! " He was 
pacing the floor again, talking as he walked. One 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



money machine had stopped ; another must take its 
place. " The loss of those papers means a loss of 
at least ten millions to us, and American interests 
in China and Germany will lose a hundred millions 
in the next ten years ! " 

" Midnight," murmured Thornley Colton, as a 
sensitive finger-tip touched the crystalless watch in 
his pocket. " And it's now one-fifteen." 

" Less than eleven hours ! " MacLaren fairly 
jumped to the telephone on his desk. " The police 
must have inducements to hustle ! " One hand 
lifted the receiver ; then he swung round. " You I " 
It was almost an accusation as he hurled it at the 
blind problemist. " You solved that code-book 
theft for us a year ago. I'd forgotten ! There isn't 
a minute to lose ! " 

" A man is dying in the next room," reminded 
Thornley Colton quietly. 

MacLaren wet his dry lips. " I know." His voice 
was lower, calmer. " But think what it means. 
The hugeness of it I A theft of a hundred millions J " 
It wasn't lack of human feeling in MacLaren. He 
was a money machine, doing what the man in the 
next room would wish done. 

The blind man nodded understandingly. " I 
came in this morning to see Mr. Villers regarding 
his cheque for our Home for Blind Children. We 
haven't received it this year." 

" If you can recover those papers I will give you 
my personal cheque for a hundred thousand ! " 

" I never accept fees," corrected Colton. " The 
solving of mysteries is my recreation. But if you 
will continue Mr. Villers' s contributions to the 

home " His expressive lips finished the sentence 

without words. 

" Yes ! Ten times the amount." MacLaren was 
half out of his chair, staring at the blind man. 



THE MONET MACHINES 



107 



"Thank you. That home means a lot to me." 
The blind man spoke reverently. " Sydney and I 
will look into the case after lunch ; I am hungry." 

"Hungry? My God!" MacLaren feU back 
weakly into the chair. " Don't you realize that you 
have less than eleven hours ? Don't you understand 
that every minute of delay may be fatal ? " 

" Oh, no," replied the problemist easily. " It will 
be at least several hours before the man who has 
the papers finishes his elaborate precautions for 
putting the police off his trail. There is no sense 
in hurrying after a man who is dodging and doubling 
to avoid possible pursuit. When he is convinced 
that his trail has been covered he will resume his 
normal way. The chased hare can wear out a 
hundred dogs that follow his devious windings, and 
when they are worn out he returns to the bosom of 
his family, contented and serene. That's where the 
ferret gets him." 

For a full minute MacLaren stared, as if the blind 
man had presented a problem in Euclid which he 
could not understand. Then he brushed his sweat- 
beaded forehead with a trembling hand. " But the 
police didn't waste an instant," he protested. 
" There are two hundred detectives working now. 
They've got a minute description of the man." He 
stopped suddenly. " You weren't even present 
when they questioned the chauffeur and the watch- 
man ! " 

" The senseless bulldozing of the police always 
makes me lose my temper," confessed Thornley 
Colton. " I spoke to the chauffeur for ten minutes 
before the detectives arrived. Afterward I preferred 
to sit here, where I could smoke a cigarette and use 
the telephone." 

" But the police learned that the man who lifted 
Mr. Villers from the car was stout, with a full brown 



108 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



beard, and dressed in light gray," persisted 
MacLaren. 

" And in this office, alone with my cigarette, I 
learned that he was slim and smooth-shaven," 
smiled Thornley Colt on, as he rose. " But those are 
minor details. He had the nail of his right index 
finger broken, and wore a curious thumb ring. 
Also, he did not actually place the hypodermic in 
the tonneau cushions. That was done by a small, 
slightly built man, and a very beautiful woman 
who is left-handed." 

Without eyes " began MacLaren gaspingly. 

" With my ten eyes." Thornley Colt on held out 
his two hands, with their tapering hypersensitive 
fingers. 

Broadway was a pandemonium of newsboys' 
shouts ; Wall Street a murmur of low-voiced 
speculation ; newspaper offices a buzz of humming 
activity. John T. Villers was dead — murdered. 
London whispered it solemnly, Paris gesticulated 
over it, Berlin gutturaled the news phlegmatically, 
Tokyo took it with characteristic lack of char- 
acteristics. Men in tin-roofed cable offices on the 
coast of Africa caught the telegraph clicks with 
news eagerness instead of curses. The wireless 
aerials of a thousand ships filched the story from 
the air. The man who had builded the American 
empire of money was dead. Would the empire 
crumble ? Would the world-power of money return 
to the seats of the mighty on the other side of the 
ocean, where it had been before the money machine 
had demanded a hand-grasp on the golden sceptre 
the jealous hands of Europe had wielded so long ? 
The money machines of Paris, London, Berlin 
awaited the answer that would be in the Chinese 
loan, the German loan — the answer that was in the 
pocket of a murderer I 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



109 



And in the quiet dining-room of the old Astor 
House Thornley Colton complained to the waiter 
of the lack of crust shortening in the apple-pie he 
was eating. It was three o'clock. 

Across the table Sydney Thames chewed his 
cigar nervously and tried to keep his mind on the 
" latest " extra he held in his hands. He had read 
the life story of John T. Villers, printed under the 
great black word : " DEAD ! " It was the story 
of the poor boy who came to the city, the story of 
machine-like habits, of putting through vast deals 
only when he had taken the last possible hour to 
consider every point, until he became known in 
Europe and America as " Last-Minute " Villers. 

He read of Johnson, Villers's personal chauffeur, 
who slept alone with his wife and three small children 
in the big private garage that was now empty because 
the dozen other Villers machines and their drivers 
had gone to Bar Harbour with Mrs. Villers and the 
two sons. He read of Johnson's five years of service, 
of his exemplary habits, his nights spent at home 
with his family ; even of his taking his wife and two 
larger children to the theatre the night before, 
while the baby was cared for by a neighbour. Even 
the police admitted that he was innocent, but police- 
like, they still held him. 

The story of finding the curious hypodermic, 
surrounded by a strong spring to hold it in place, 
caused Sydney to laugh nervously. The police had 
not discovered it until reporters, who had inter- 
viewed MacLaren after Thornley Colton had left, 
told them of it. Now the search was on for the taxi 
which had caused the Villers machine to run over 
the girder. And there was no clue ! The three 
traffic policemen who had seen the whole thing had 
neither number nor idea of the machine. It was 
red ; so were a thousand others. An expert had 



110 



TEE THIRD PROBLEM 



said that the hypodermic of death had been made 
abroad, possibly in Germany. And that was all. 

But the papers revelled in the details ; they gave 
inch-typed prominence to the announcement that 
MacLaren had offered a huge reward for certain 
papers stolen from the unconscious Villers. It was 
a big story ; the biggest story of the most daring 
crime New York had ever known. 

Yes, Sydney read, and re-read, until the inch 
paragraph in the lower left-hand corner regarding 
the activities of a band of international smugglers 
was a relief. On any other day that story would 
have been given prominence, to-day it was only 
a filler. He glanced up at the clock on the wall, 
then his eyes turned toward the blind man, in them 
a look of appeal for hurry. 

" Nervous, Sydney % " smiled Thornley Colton 
over the top of his glass of milk. 

Thames flushed, as he usually did when this man, 
who had picked him up as a bundle of baby-clothes 
on the banks of the English river that had given 
him the only surname he had ever known, read his 
thoughts. 

"It is five minutes past three," he murmured 
apologetically. 

" And we haven't done a thing," finished Colton, 
the smile still on his thin, expressive lips. 

" But this is so big ; the consequences " 

" Do you expect the success of this murder to 
pave the way for others ? " interjected Thornley 
Colton mildly. 

" I wasn't thinking " Sydney stopped 

suddenly. 

" Of the murder." The problemist again finished 
the sentence for him. " You were thinking of the 
stolen data. So are a million others." The smile 
was cynical, now. " What a pitiful thing a human 



THE MONET MACHINES 



111 



life is, compared to a few millions. No one thinks 
of Villers's death as the death of a man. It is merely 
the stopping of a machine with its work unfinished. " 
He took a bill from his fold and laid it beside his 
plate. " Come, then ; I'll get busy." 

" To the Villers garage ? " asked Thames eagerly. 
" There should be countless clues, for you, leading 
to the persons who placed the hypodermic. " 

" All superfluous," declared Thornley Colton, 
with a slight wave of the thin, hollow stick he 
always carried. " Following a multitude of unim- 
portant clues is police work. We are going to the 
office of the Manhattan Tug and Lighterage Com- 
pany ; yesterday was quite foggy. Remember ? " 

" What " began Sydney amazedly. 

Thornley Colton interrupted. " The same ? " 
he asked quietly. 

Sydney Thames choked back the words and 
glanced over the dining-room. His brain, trained 
for years to count steps for the man who could 
not see, and who refused a guiding arm, calculated 
rapidly. ' ' The waiter is serving the table twelve 
steps straight. Turn eleven, four right, and seven 
to the door, left." 

A nod, and the blind man hurried forward con- 
fidently with long, swinging strides, the hollow cane 
dangling idly from his fingers. Sydney followed, 
and, at the door, he stepped beside Colton. The 
slight touch of his sleeve on the sightless man's arm 
guided him to a taxi-cab. It was not until the 
directions had been given, and they were on their 
way toward the Battery, that Thornley Colton spoke. 

" The Manhattan Tug and Lighterage Company 
got a whole lot of free publicity a few weeks ago in 
connection with that rescue at sea of the Oldwell 
private yacht by one of their big sea-going tugs 
that happened to be near. Recollect ? " 



112 



TEE THIRD PROBLEM 



" Yes," admitted Thames, puzzled. " But what 
has that to do with it ? " 

" Nothing, except that the story went the rounds, 
and the name would naturally occur to any one 
who needed a sea-going tug. I have an idea that 
the fog of yesterday caused several persons a whole 
lot of anxiety. Ah, here we are." 

Dazedly Sydney Thames followed the blind man 
to the side-walk. What had a sea-going tug to do 
with a robbery on Wall Street ? What had the fog 
of yesterday to do with the murder of to-day ? 
But Sydney knew the uselessness of the eager 
questions that were in his mind. The problemist 
would tell him, all in good time. So, silently, 
he fell in beside Thornley Colton, and guided him 
into the offices with the slight touch of his 
sleeve. 

President M'Inness was the man Colton asked 
for, and they were shown into the private office 
immediately. 

" Glad to see you, Mr. Colton ; glad to see you ! " 
boomed the wide-shouldered, rugged-faced man, as 
he took the other's fingers in his vice-like grip. 
" What is it this time ; smugglers again ? They 
say a new gang's workin'. They're even watching 
my boats." 

Thornley Colton shook his head, for answer to 
that last. Then he came right to the point. 

" You got a wireless from the Moravia, early 
yesterday morning, to take a passenger off at 
Quarantine, and rush him to New York." It was 
not a question ; it was a simple statement of a 
known fact. 

" Sure," admitted M'Inness. " Then the Lord 
stepped in and brushed away the fog at midnight, 
and the Moravia docked at eight o'clock this 
morning." 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



113 



" Can you give us the name that was on the 
wireless ? " 

" Sure. I guess you've heard it often enough. 
Percy Vanderpoole." 

Sydney Thames could not repress a gasp of 
surprise ; but Thornley Colton's tone was merely 
casual as he said : 

" Dreyfus MacLaren's nephew % " 

" That's him. He's got about nine million dollars, 
you know, and he's certainly been making it fly 
in the four years since he left college. Hasn't 
brains enough to get in out of the rain, either." 

" Urn ! " Thornley rolled the hollow stick 
between his fingers absently. " Nothing else in the 
wireless, I suppose ? " 

" Nope. Just wanted a tug if the Moravia was 
held up after two o'clock. Wasn't. The fog lifted, 
she docked, and we lost two hundred dollars." 
The sentence ended in a wry smile. 

' 1 From what I've heard of Vanderpoole, and from 
what I know of him, I should think he'd have taken 
that tug anyway, and hang the expense." The 
blind man rose. " He must have been taking some 
one's advice," he finished. 

* ' Be the first time he ever did, then, according 
to the papers," grunted M'Inness. " Accordin' to 
them I've seen, he has a bug for giving fool dinners." 

" So I've heard," murmured Colton, backing 
toward the door. 

" Ain't any use asking your game, I guess ? " 
grinned the amiable Mr. M'Inness. 

" You'll probably read about it in the morning 
papers," smiled Colton. Then he hurried out, his 
brain automatically counting the steps it had 
registered as he entered. 

On the side- walk outside, Sydney allowed his 
thoughts to find expression in two words : 



114 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



" Great Scott ! " 

" It was a surprise," admitted the problemist. 
" It means a total change of plans. Take me to a 
telephone." 

There was one at hand in the corridor of a big 
office building. For nearly half an hour Colton 
telephoned, while Sydney waited outside the closed 
booth vainly trying to understand this new com- 
plication. What connection had the nephew of the 
man who had offered them a hundred thousand 
dollars for the recovery of the papers with their 
theft, and with the murder of John T. Villers ? 

Colton emerged from the booth, a smile of triumph 
on his thin lips. 

" Now a jewellery store, Sydney," he said crisply, 
" I want to buy a cheap, unset diamond." 

" A diamond ? " echoed Thames blankly. 

" Exactly. I've just accepted an invitation for 
you and me and MacLaren to a little dinner aboard 
Percy Vanderpoole's yacht this evening. I'm going 
to see if a diamond really has the wonderful power 
of suggestion so often attributed to it." 

II. 

The Fee's eyes sparkled with delight as he listened. 
When Thornley Colton had finished, queer gurgling 
noises of joy issued from the boy's throat before 
the words came : 

" Jumpin' Jiminy, Mr. Colton ! A motor boat at 
night an' a disguise. That's real detective work ! " 

The blind man's lips framed a whimsical smile as 
he gazed down at the red-haired, freckled-faced 
youth, with the slightly twisted nose, who had 
become a member of the Colton household as the 
result of a particularly baffling murder case, for 
which he had been the only fee. 



THE MONET MACHINES 



115 



" A whole lot depends on you, Shrimp," said 
Thornley Colton seriously. " Michael will go with 
you, but your part will have to be done all alone. 
I don't think you will be in any personal danger ; 
if I did I wouldn't let you go." 

Some of the joyous light went from the boy's 
eyes. " Chee ! I wisht there was goin' t' be some 
real gun play," he sighed. 

" You have a long life before you," laughed 
Colton. " Hurry now ; here comes Sydney." 

As his secretary entered he turned to face him. 
" Your foolish fear of women is not going to spoil 
it, Sydney ? " he asked amusedly. 

" No ! Sydney answered with the gruff ness 
that was always in his voice when this subject was * 
brought up. Sydney's fear of woman was really 
adoration. All women, to him, were angels ; his 
fear was that he would fall in love with one — and 
he was nameless, a bundle of rags, abandoned on the 
banks of the Thames in London. This was con- 
stantly in Sydney Thames's mind. 

" Here comes MacLaren," the blind man said 
suddenly ; a moment later the big, square-jawed 
man burst into the room. 

" Where are they ? Have you got them ? " 
he gasped, the top-coat, flung over his arm, dragging 
on the floor. 

Your coat will need the services of a dozen 
brushers in a short while," murmured Colton. 

" Damn the coat ! " flared MacLaren, flinging 
it on to the library desk. " I've walked forty miles, 
in that office of mine, this afternoon. Every reporter 
in the world has baited me. I've had a very devil 
of a time getting here without them on my trail. 
Our code messages from Europe say the financiers 
are grinning up their sleeves at us. They know ! 
And all the word I get from you is to be here at 



116 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



seven o'clock, and you'd show me where the papers 
were." 

" I said I'd get the papers, and show you where the 
murderers were," corrected Colton mildly. " I have 
an old-fashioned idea of the value of human life." 

" Yes. Certainly," choked MacLaren. The hours 
of inaction had done their work. 

" We have a dinner engagement at eight," went 
on Colton smoothly. 

" Dinner ! " exploded the square- jawed man. 
" My God, man ! You " 

" Exactly." The voice of the blind man held a 
new tone now ; a steel-like timbre that Sydney 
Thames instantly recognized. " I am taking you 
to that dinner to get your mind off the terrible 
events of this afternoon. Nothing else t " 

" Where is the dinner ? " The meekness of the 
big man was almost ludicrous. 

" On the yacht of your nephew, Percy Vander- 
poole." 

" That fool ! " There was acridity in the voice 
this time. 

" He has that reputation." Sydney Thames 
thought the tone dry. " He is giving what he calls 
a wireless dinner on his yacht, anchored off the 
Metropolis Yacht Club. All the arrangements were 
made, and the invitations sent out from the Moravia, 
by wireless. You know Percy has quite a reputation 
for unique affairs of this kind. I called him up this 
afternoon regarding some other matter, and he 
insisted that I come. I sought an invitation for you, 
and I got it. Several men who were friends on the 
way over are included." 

" All right," agreed MacLaren gloweringly. 

" We'll go to the club in your car," was all 
Thornley Colton said, as he led the way from the 
room. 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



117 



Vanderpoole's guests were all awaiting their 
appearance, and introductions were hurried through. 
There was a gushy, black-haired Miss Clements, who 
was paired with an anaemic, slightly-built American ; 
a tall, stout German, who answered the name of 
Von Wagnen, with pale cheeks, and chin that 
contrasted strangely with his ruddy forehead ; a 
dissipated-looking Englishman named Brookes ; 
several feminine nonentities, and one or two of 
Percy's male society friends. It was a mixed party, 
characteristic of the money-flinging Percy Vander- 
poole. 

The hurry was in honour of the military-looking 
Count d'Auboi whom Percy had met in Europe two 
years before, with his charming wife, the countess. 
The count had been aboard the Moravia. So had 
the countess, though Percy chaffed her for taking 
her cabin before he even knew she was aboard, and 
staying there the whole time. Her cheeks were 
colourless, but her eyes shone, despite the fearful 
ordeal of seasickness she now laughed over. And 
there was the great joke of the count, who 
confessed that he had never been in America, losing 
Percy on the pier, and wandering around the city 
for several hours, with his nervous wife, until they 
succeeded in locating Percy by telephone. 

" They finally got to the Waldorf, Lord knows 
how," laughed Percy, as he led the way to the dining- 
cabin. " And now they're going on the midnight 
train to Frisco, so we'll have to hustle this little 
affair through." 

" My seestair, she is married there," smiled the 
count, in his broken English. Then, with entire 
disregard of connection : " An' I even mees my 
brodair-in-law, Mr. Clauson " — he indicated the 
anaamic-looking American — " who come to meet 
us." 



118 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



Sydney took his seat, almost tremulously between 
the Countess d'Auboi and the vivacious Miss 
Clements, at the table in the mahogany-finished 
cabin. But in a few minutes he was surprised and 
delighted to find that his foolish fear of the sex 
was being driven away like mist before the sunshine 
of the charming countess's conversation. Miss 
Clements, at his left, chattered away at a mad rate 
to Clauson, and did not bother him. But the 
countess, her wonderful voice surcharged with 
sympathy and the intuitive understanding of 
women, drew him from his shell immediately. 

Across the table the blind man chatted with 
Count d'Auboi, who was even more charming, if 
possible, than his wife. At the head of the table 
Percy laughed uproariously at the dissipated- 
looking Englishman's account of his first pigsticking 
in India. At the foot, MacLaren glowered in silence, 
utterly ignoring the sullen-looking German and the 
yellow-haired woman who was his partner. The 
dissipated Englishman and the German were cabin 
friends Percy had met on the Moravia. They had both 
been interesting, and that was all Percy ever asked. 

During a lull in the conversation Percy happened 
to glance at the face of the German, who had 
relapsed into sullen silence after repeated attempts 
to get a word from MacLaren. 

" Any one would think you'd committed a crime, 
Von Wagnen," he laughed. 

The blind man was the only one who did not see 
the blood mount to the strangely pale cheeks of the 
Teuton ; but MacLaren was the only one who 
caught the lighting eye signal from the Englishman. 
His own eyes narrowed cunningly. This was no 
mere dinner engagement ! 

" But what a horrible crime the murder of Mr, 
Villers was ! " gushed Miss Clements, with a shiver. 



THE MONET MACHINES 



119 



" By Jove ! " The ejaculation came from Percy 
Vanderpoole. " You used to be quite clever at 
solving mysteries, Mr. Colton. Why don't you get 
on this one ? " 

MacLaren cursed under his breath. Sydney 
Thames could not keep the startled look from his 
eyes. 

" You are a detective, Mr. Colton % " The 
countess asked it almost accusingly, the charming 
touch of accent in her voice giving it a subtle under- 
current of laughter. 

Thornley Colton's thin lips smiled back at her. 
" I do a little in that line," he admitted. 

" Tell us about eet." It was the count at his side, 
eyes eager with interest. 

" My cases are only simple little affairs, 
naturally," deprecated the blind man. He thrust 
two fingers into his waistcoat pocket. " Here is 
something that I expect to solve a mystery for me." 
He held a small, glittering diamond on his out- 
stretched palm. MacLaren's keen ears caught the 
sharp intake of breath of the German at his side. 
" Yes," continued the problemist. " That came 
from the thumb ring of a pickpocket, torn from the 
prongs by the Hning of his victim's coat." 

" An' he deed not know eet — what a joke ! " 
laughed the count, picking up the diamond from 
the extended palm, more closely to examine the 
stone. The light from the shaded incandescents 
above reflected in the four small rubies that formed 
the eyes of the twisted snake ring he wore on his 
thumb. 

The sullen-looking German had apparently re- 
covered his nerve. MacLaren looked puzzled. 

" Let's see it ; I know a bit about the bally 
things." The Englishman took the stone from the 
count. " There's a flaw in it as big as a shilling ! " 



120 



TEE THIRD PROBLEM 



he announced, with the disgust of an expert. Again 
MacLaren caught the signal of eyes to the German 
beside him. 

" Dere iss few goot stones," announced the 
Teuton ponderously. 

" Ple-ese tell us about it ? " pleaded the countess. 

" Oh, do, please do," pouted Miss Clements, as 
if to forestall a refusal. The request was chorused . 
by the others. 

" It really isn't worth it," protested Colton ; 
then he seemed to know, for the first time, that the 
Englishman held the stone for him to take back. 
" Thank you," he smiled, as he replaced it carefully 
in his pocket. " I was afraid some one would 
switch off the lights and steal it in the darkness 
and confusion. By the way, Percy, is that deck- 
light switch still where it used to be when your 
father was alive ? " 

" The same place," nodded Vanderpoole. " Right 
beside the cabin-door, on the after-deck." 

" See ! " Colton's laugh was loud, but somehow 
it did not seem to ring true. " Any one could 
steal the stone in the darkness, and get away 
with it." 

MacLaren scowled. His quick mind understood 
that Colton wanted the location of that switch for 
some purpose of his own. And, without eyes, he 
must take this method of learning its location. But 
he knew that the other guests, too, had recognized 
some sinister motive under the palpable affectation 
of banter the blind man had assumed. There came 
a tenseness there had not been before. And every 
one knew the location of the switch that could 
plunge the decks into instant darkness. 

" Let's have the coffee and cigarettes under the 
awnings on the after-deck," suggested Percy, to 
cover the break. 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



121 



" Let's," acquiesced Colton eagerly, then he 
paused impressively for an instant. " If you'll 
hurry I'll tell you something about the Villers 
murder. I am working on that case ! " 

Instantly chairs were pushed back as the guests 
crowded to the door. 

As Sydney rose, the countess found time to 
whisper in his ear : 

" He speaks strangely, your Mr. Colton." There 
was feminine nervousness in her voice. Sydney 
nodded dumbly, sick at heart. The blind man he 
loved had made a mistake. 

MacLaren kept close to the sullen German, utterly 
ignoring his yellow-haired dinner partner. The 
money machine's hands were clenched in his pockets, 
his shoulders braced for some attack. " A big, 
stout man, with a full beard," was the description 
he remembered. The Teuton answered that descrip- 
tion perfectly ; the pale cheeks showed where the 
beard had been recently shaven. He passed out 
to the awninged, dimly-lighted deck, brushing the 
coat of the blind man, who stood beside the door, 
almost over the small wicker table where the 
countess and Sydney had taken their seats with the 
brother-in-law of the count and the chatty Miss 
Clements. 

For several seconds the blind man stood there, 
apparently calmly eyeing them. The light of the 
switch incandescent shone on his wavy, white hair, 
his broad shoulders, his deep chest. The German 
moved uneasily. The dissipated-looking English- 
man, who had manoeuvred to a seat beside him, 
gripped his arm. Every muscle in MacLaren's body 
was tense. The yellow-haired woman and the three 
other feminine nonentities bit their lips nervously. 

Sydney Thames could not repress his own nervous- 
ness. Was the blind man going to accuse desperate 



122 



TEE THIRD PROBLEM 



men who had murdered a man and robbed him of 
papers worth a hundred millions ? No help was 
near. The sky was cloudy, the anchorage was 
deserted, except for an empty speed boat that rode 
at anchor in the silent darkness two hundred yards 
away. 

Then Thornley Colton spoke quietly, smoothly. 
" The story of the diamond is the story of the Villers 
murder." One hand drew out the crystalless watch. 
"It is now ten-thirty; at ten-forty-five the police 
will search this boat for the papers stolen from the 
unconscious man in front of his office ! " Men and 
women jumped to their feet. " Sit still ! " His 
hand went above his head. The switch snapped out. 
They were in darkness. 

A chair toppled over. They heard him fumble 
with the switch lever. Then, shrill, frightened, 
came the voice of a boy : 

" Let go ! Let go ! I'm workin' fer Mister 
Colton ! " 

The lights came. Startled men and women saw 
a small boy squirming in the grasp of a brawny 
man. Sydney Thames knocked over the empty 
chair at his right as he leaped to his feet. It was 
The Fee, caught, and in his hand was a black bag. 

" It's the papers ! " yelled The Fee. 

Thames knew instantly the reason for that sudden 
darkness. It was Colton's plan — and an ignorant 
deck hand had ruined it ! 

But almost in a bound Thornley Colton was at 
the boy's side. He tore the man's hands from his 
arm, with fingers like steel. 

" It's all right, Mike ; start 'er ! " screamed the 
freckle-faced boy. 

Under their very feet, seemingly, came the bark 
of a gasoline engine. 

" Stand back 1 " ordered Colton. 



THE MONET MACHINES 



123 



Dumbly, as if dazed, they obeyed. The boy stood 
alone at the rail. Below him the motor boat coughed. 

Dreyfus MacLaren jumped forward to take the 
bag. A clenched fist sent him sprawling. A hand 
tore the bag from the boy's hand. A black auto- 
matic swept before the circle of white faces. Behind 
it was Count d'Auboi, Hps drawn back in a snarl. 

" I take it ! " The snarling smoothness went out 
of the voice ; it rose to a yell : " Jean ! " 

At the signal the darkness again shut down on 
them. They stood huddled together before the 
menacing automatic they could not see. 

" A move, I shoot into ze crowd, a woman, maybe," 
came the flint-like voice of the count before them. 
Somewhere behind them came the sounds of a short 
scuffle, a snarled oath. A man leaped to the rail. 
A splash sounded below ; then a hoarse order in 
French. 

" 'Nette ! " snapped the count. There was no 
response. Again came that hoarse voice from the 
water. A scrambling shadow over the rail. The 
motor boat leaped away from the side. 

Out of the darkness came the piercing call of a 
police whistle. Across the black waters a broad 
beam of dazzling white shot out — picked up the 
boat — held it. Men were running on the decks of 
the speed craft two hundred yards away. It fairly 
leaped in pursuit of the smaller boat. 

The white searchlight brought out the escaping 
boat with startling vividness . The two men crouched 
over the wheel. The black bag was on the seat 
beside them. A line of fire shot from the pursuing 
boat. Another. The small engine went dead. 
The space was closing now — fifty yards — twenty — 
the searchlight still held like a calcium. 

The stupefied watchers on the yacht saw the 
count stand up in the boat ; saw him look wildly 



124 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



around. He stooped, picked up the black satchel, 
and flung it far out into the water. In the bright 
glare they could see his very teeth bared in a snarling 
smile as he waited. The ripples gleamed in an ever- 
widening circle where the satchel had sunk. 

" Nervy devil, isn't he ? " It was the cool voice 
of Thornley Colt on. For the first time the watchers 
realized that the lights were on again ; that they 
had been actors in reality, not wraiths in a 
dream. 

Dreyfus MacLaren was first to recover, and as he 
raised his voice it had in it the strong man's sob : 
"My God! The data!" 

" The charming Countess Annette is sitting on 
them," smiled Thornley Colton. " I couldn't bear 
exposing her to police shots. She is handcuffed to 
her chair." 

III. 

" Yes, Sydney, the police can't be beaten when it 
comes to making arrests. Find the guilty ones, 
label them, lead them up to the police, and the 
cops '11 get them every time. And the police dearly 
love a plant, that's why they worked so well to-night. 
You see, I made all the arrangements this afternoon 
when you had left me in disgust to walk off your 
nervousness. The telephone is a mighty handy thing 
for the blind." He took a sip of the vichy at his 
elbow, and touched the erystalless watch lying on 
the old-fashioned library table before him. It was 
twelve-thirty. 

" But how — where ? " Sydney Thames changed 
it to a confession. " I am still dazed." 

" I suppose you'll have to have it all," smiled 
Colton. " All right. Ten minutes' intelligent con- 
versation with the chauffeur before the fool 
detectives arrived gave me practically all of the 



TEE MONET MACHINES 



125 



information I needed. He told me of the theatre 
party with his wife and two eldest children. I 
was interested because they went to a famous 
Broadway children's show, where the seat prices 
are high. The tickets had been given his wife by 
a rich woman who devoted her time to showing 
mothers how to care for their babies, and had taken 
an interest in his own. Of course, that told me 
immediately how the chauffeur had been gotten 
away while the car was fixed. Through his wife 
and tots was the only way he could be reached. 

" Then I wanted to know if there was a good, 
quiet hotel near by. The woman must have taken 
quarters near his home to be on the watch for the 
opportunity to get acquainted with his wife and 
children. They are fairly well-to-do, and would 
resent the professional interference of a settlement 
worker. There was. A telephone call from Mac- 
Laren's office while you and the others were outside 
with the police— with the description the chauffeur 
had given me — fixed her as a Mrs. Allen, a widow, 
who was spending her money and time on poor 
babies. She had been there two weeks. She wasn't 
in when I called, but would be in the morning. See 
how clever. Not a breath of suspicion by telling 
them that she was going to leave. Did she have a 
habit of calling a special taxi ? She did, from the 
Nelson House. It was easy to get a description of 
the chauffeur from the starter there. The calls had 
been made without any attempt at concealment ; 
for who would connect a settlement worker in New 
York with the wife of a French count ? The 
chauffeur had been employed a week. He was 
undoubtedly an American. The woman was French, 
though she spoke English perfectly. See how simple 
the possibilities are when the foolish impossibilities 
the police delight in are eliminated ? 



126 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



" Then the chauffeur's recollection of the bearded 
man who had lifted Villers out of the car ; his stilted 
way of speaking. I knew then that he, too, was a 
Frenchman, trying to hide it by repeating, slowly 
and carefully, without his usual accent, words he 
had learned by rote. Where had he been while 
the other two were making the arrangements ? A 
man with the brains and knowledge to plan a crime 
like that couldn't be common enough, even in 
appearance, to hide successfully for two weeks. I 
remembered the Moravia, due from Havre last night. 
What could be a greater alibi than that of a man 
who had been in the city but a few hours ? But 
the fog must have caused him considerable anxiety. 
That's why I went to see M'Inness. I knew the 
name of the Manhattan Tug and Lighterage Com- 
pany would still be in everybody's mind. You know 
that Percy stepped in and sent that message on his 
own hook — at a hint from the count, of course, who 
was quick to see that that would cover his last 
possible connection. When I got him on the phone 
I learned of the count and his wife for the first time. 
Then I realized how infernally clever they were, and 
knew I'd have to act accordingly. The Englishman 
and the German also entered to complicate affairs. 
I didn't know whether they were in it or not." 

" But the description you gave in MacLaren's 
office," interrupted Sydney. " It was wholly at 
variance with that of every one who had seen him. 
And the left-handed woman who placed the hypo- 
dermic ? " 

Colton laughed. " The first came from knowledge 
of human nature. If he was stout and full-bearded 
when he exposed himself before the eyes of several 
hundred persons, it was a moral certainty that he 
was neither, with the disguise off. He'd absolutely 
reverse it when he stepped into the taxi that was 



THE MONET MACHINES 



127 



waiting around the corner after it had let him off 
in time to get the papers. The stitches in the 
cushions told me the other. They were too fine 
to have been made by a man. My fingers showed 
me that the needle had been thrust upward, instead 
of downward, as would have been the case with a 
right-handed person." 

• ' But the actual robbery ? ' ' insisted Sydney. ■ ' The 
man with the broken finger-nail ? I paid particular 
attention at the dinner. All seemed perfect." 

" You are learning to observe," smiled the blind 
man. " When my fingers brushed the coat-lining 
of the unconscious man they felt the torn threads 
of the caught finger-nail as it swept upward when 
he thrust his hand under the coat for the thick 
packet of papers. But the packet was evidently 
wedged, in some way, for it was necessary for him 
to thrust his whole hand down into the pocket. 
His thumb ring tore the fining slightly at the corner. 
These things could not be seen with the naked eye, 
but they could be felt with fingers trained to read 
handwriting by touching the reverse side of the 
paper, and feeling the indentations of the pencil." 

Sydney nodded understandingly. " Now if you'll 
explain the diamond, and The Fee's entrance ? " 
he asked. 

" Suggestion. Psychology," declared Thornley 
Colton seriously. " The diamond held on my palm 
was primarily intended to find the man whose 
broken finger-nail had pulled the threads from the 
coat lining. Held on my palm, the man who picked 
it up must touch my flesh with his finger-nail. The 
count's was cut to the quick ; that of his thumb 
was long and tapering. Then the Englishman 
wanted to see it. I knew he wasn't the man, there- 
fore I caused the stampede to the after-deck with 
the promise of telling about the Villers murder to 



128 



THE THIRD PROBLEM 



find out what he and his German friend really were. 
A quick touch in the crowd, as they came through 
the door, felt the heavy belt around the German's 
waist. Smugglers ! 

" That was easy, merely an incident in the case. 
But the police seemed glad to get them. They were 
part of the long-sought band. So we'll dismiss them. 
But their presence shows further cleverness on the 
part of the wily count in including them to divert 
suspicion if it became necessary. He probably 
knew their game, and would have used it to cover 
his, if he had to. 

" My talk of the thumb-ringed pickpocket was 
intended to make the count suspicious of me. My 
reference to the light switch and the darkness were 
for the sole purpose of showing him how he could 
escape if it came to a show-down. My idiotic 
attempt to cover up what he, and others, supposed 
to be the only means I had of locating that switch 
was not intended to deceive them ; it was intended 
to make them understand that I thought I was 
deceiving them. I knew the papers must be some- 
where near ; they planned to get away at midnight. 
But I couldn't take a chance of arresting them, and 
then searching ; for men clever enough to steal 
those papers would be clever enough to put them 
where no one could get them. Therefore the talk 
of the police search and the pulling of the switch 
to put out the lights. 

" By that time they understood that the only 
thing they could do was get away. I'd stood 
watching them in silence long enough to let them 
see that the anchorage was deserted, and that they 
had a pretty fair chance of escaping. When the 
darkness came I knew one of them would take instant 
advantage of it, and get the papers if they weren't 
already on his person. You didn't give a thought 



THE MONEY MACHINES 



129 



to Clauson's being absent when you toppled over 
his empty chair, as you saw The Fee with that fake 
bag bait. I did, and I knew the count would look 
at that bag as I intended he should. He wasn't 
given an opportunity to see that Clauson had gone. 
He was told of the ready boat, given an opportunity 
to grab the bag from the boy's hand. He called 
* Jean ' as a signal for Clauson to put out the lights. 
Jean wasn't there, but the quick-witted countess 
was. Jean, of course, heard that call, and came 
running. I met him at the cabin-door, held him 
long enough to get the packet from his inside pocket. 
It was easy, for " — a whimsical smile came to the 
thin lips — " I am quite at home in the darkness. 
It was done so quickly that the frightened Jean 
hardly knew it, I guess, and, of course, the count 
supposed the boy had gotten the data for me. Then 
the police stepped in, and we saw the spectacular 
play of the greatest crook I ever had the pleasure 
of meeting, while the countess struggled on the 
chair to escape. I'd put the papers under her for 
safe-keeping, and also because they wouldn't go 
in my dinner-coat pocket." 

" Then," puzzled Sydney, " the doctor who first 
attended ViUers was — this count ! But I can't see 
why — he needed his bag ? " 

" Because he was a mighty clever man. He knew 
it would be easy to take a thick packet of papers 
from Villers's pocket without being seen, but he also 
knew that it would be almost impossible to slip 
them into his own unobserved. Therefore the open 
doctor's bag at his feet, where they could be dropped 
in an instant." 

" Papers worth a hundred million," murmured 
Sydney Thames, almost in awe. 

" And costing a single, human life," digressed 
Thornley Colton wearily, 
I 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



THE FLYING DEATH 
L 

The last sobbing notes of the violin died away. 
Slowly, reverently, the girl lowered the bow and 
lifted her chin ; the throat-filling hush wrought by 
the conjuring of her music became wild, unrestrained 
applause as the spell broke. The beating surges of 
sound from the gallery, the balcony, the floor 
seemed to frighten her a little ; the frail body in its 
simple white frock shrank before it ; but the girlish 
lips smiled bravely as she bowed her way to the 
wings. 

Clamorous, insistent, the applause continued. 
She reappeared ; silence came as she lifted the 
violin to her chin. The lilting fantasy of a folk- 
song rollicked from under the dancing bow. Once 
more came the enthusiastic outburst when she 
finished. She gestured her thanks, smiled an 
instant at the upper right-hand box, laughed and 
kissed her hand to the lone occupant of lower left 
and ran from the stage. 

' ' Sheer genius, Sydney ! " murmured Thornley 
Colton, in expression of the reverence good music 
always aroused in him ; for music, to the blind 
man, held all the pleasures that painting, sculpture, 
and beautiful architecture hold for those whom God 
has given sight. Now his whole face, from the 



THE FLYING DEATH 



131 



high forehead to the lean, cleft chin, was alight ; 
even the sightless eyes seemed to shine behind the 
great blue circles of the smoked-glass, tortoise-shell- 
rimmed library spectacles that accentuated the 
striking whiteness of his face and hair. 

" Wonderful ! " breathlessly agreed the red- 
cheeked, black-haired Sydney Thames, secretary 
and constant companion of the blind man. 

" It makes my woids muss up when I try to talk," 
gulped The Fee, freckle-faced, red-haired, blue- 
eyed boy, who had become a member of the Colton 
household at the conclusion of a particularly baffling 
murder case. Thornley Colton laughed softly and 
pushed back his chair. Then real alarm came to 
the boy's voice. " Gee, yuh ain't goin' now ? " 
he pleaded. " They's a coupla comedy acr'bats an' 
a wop knife t'rower yet ! " 

" We'll wait," promised Colton, as he made room 
for a pale-faced young man who had just risen to 
hurry past him and out of the box. 

The problemist moved his chair farther back, and 
whispered to Sydney. " Our friend who just left 
seems to be troubled with a mighty bad case of 
nerves," he observed. " My cane could feel his chair 
trembling under him the whole time the girl was 
playing. He seemed to jump a foot when she left 
the stage that last time, and he's been muttering 
under his breath ever since. What happened % " 

" I'd say he was wildly in love with her, and 
madly jealous of some one else," accounted Sydney. 
'^She smiled up at him an instant after that last 
encore, but she immediately turned and kissed her 
hand to the man in the lower left-hand box. If 
ever black rage shone in a man's face it was on that 
of our neighbour. He isn't more than twenty-two 
or three, and he doesn't look as if he had ever 
learned to curb a nasty temper," 



132 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



" He left as if he were going in search of some 
one's heart blood/' smiled the blind man, leaning 
back in his chair. 

One of the comedy acrobats had just succeeded in 
pushing the other from a high table, and was 
joyously dancing on his rubber stomach, to the 
great delight of The Fee, and some fourteen or 
fifteen hundred others. 

" You don't happen to know the occupant of 
lower left ? " asked Colton. Somehow the thought 
of sordid jealousy of two men, and a girl whose 
witchery could produce such music, seemed to jar. 

Sydney gazed covertly down at the occupant of 
lower left. He was a big-bodied man, and fat. 
There were fleshy pouches of good living and bad 
drinking under his eyes ; but no dissipation could 
hide the iron will, the dominant arrogance the 
heavy chin showed. He sat back in the deep box, 
the black of his evening clothes verging into the 
black of the heavy velvet hangings that covered the 
wall behind him. The white expanse of shirt front 
contrasted strikingly with the sombre background ; 
one white fist rested on the back of a gold chair. 

" It's James P. Cartwright, the theatrical 
manager ! " returned Sydney suddenly. " Her 
manager ! " he supplemented in sudden anger as 
he compared the innocent girlishness of the violinist 
and the coarse grossness of the recognized man in 
the box. Sydney Thames deified all women from 
afar, for he had forbidden himself the joys of pro- 
pinquity, because he could never forget that he had 
no name but that of the English river on the banks 
of which Thornley Colton had found him, a bundle 
of dirty baby-clothes, years before. 

" Cartwright has an unenviable reputation among 
his women of the stage," muttered Colton. The 
smile was gone from the thin, expressive hps now. 



THE FLYING DEATH 



133 



The rocking notes of the fantastic folk-song still 
haunted him ; the sobbing cadence of the piece she 
had played before was in his mind : an omen of 
tragedy. A soul that could conjure music like that 
— and a Cartwright who, gossip said, demanded his 
price for others' success ! 

The two comedy acrobats had disinterred them- 
selves from an avalanche of chairs and a table ; 
the first to his feet had been promptly knocked down 
by the other, and dragged off the stage by his heels, 
while The Fee and a few hundred others shouted 
and clapped their approval. A card announced 
Signor Delvetoi and his marvellous whirling knives. 

Sydney, watching the occupant of the lower left, 
saw him take out a big watch impatiently, lean 
ponderously back in a chair, and summon an usher. 
The uniformed man came, listened a moment, 
nodded, and opened the door at the stage end of the 
box, to reappear a moment later and whisper his 
message, or news. Cartwright nodded, and turned 
his attention idly toward the stage, where the signor 
sent a whirling knife toward the high boards before 
which his yellow-haired partner had set a red apple 
swinging on a long string. The knife point thudded 
into the wood ; the cut string parted, and the apple 
rolled to the stage floor. 

" Gee, that's some stunt ! " ecstatically exclaimed 
The Fee, as he enthusiastically described the feat 
of the black-bearded signor to Colton. 

A handful of playing cards flurried before the 
wooden stop. Three whirling knives shot across the 
whole length of the stage ; three cards were pinned 
fast, and the assistant held them up triumphantly 
to show the pierced ace spots. 

Cartwright inclined his head in a nod of grudging 
approval, then turned quickly as he heard the door 
that led back to the stage open. Sydney saw the 



134 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



girl who had played appear in her street clothes, a 
simple white shirt waist and dark skirt, her coat 
thrown over her arm. He gritted his teeth at the 
greeting she gave the theatrical manager, and as he 
saw the flush of happiness on the winsome face, 
while the thick lips of the man grinned as he took 
her coat. Cartwright jerked his thumb toward the 
stage where the dexterous signor had just succeeded 
in planting five knives in a black spot not bigger 
than a half dollar. 

He pulled his chair close to that of the girl, and 
they sat talking ; the girl with many pretty, uncon- 
scious gestures, the man listening, with a jerky nod 
now and then. They were in the rear of the box, 
not three feet from the heavy velvet hangings that 
covered the wall back of them. They could not be 
seen from the body of the theatre, but from the 
upper box opposite, where Sydney sat, everything 
in their box was visible. 

Sydney interrupted The Fee*® excited description 
of the signor's act long enough to tell the news to 
Colt on ; and he made no excuse for his spying. 
The blind man nodded grimly, and continued his 
patient listening to The Fee, who was having the 
time of his young life. The signor, in his suit of 
black silk and his black, pointed beard, had per- 
formed miracles with the whirling knives. Now the 
boy waited breathlessly for this last feat, because 
the soft music of the orchestra told him it would 
be the best of all. A huge frame was being lowered 
from the flies. The blond assistant stepped to the 
small shelf, thrust her hands through the leather 
loops, and stood against the golden back, arms 
spread wide, feet apart. The signor brought his 
table of ghttering knives to the footlights ; the 
frame and the assistant swung aloft. The lights 
went out. Darkness for a few brief seconds, then 



THE FLYING DEATH 



135 



the calcium from the balcony outlined the suspended 
woman and the gold background. 

" Ah ! " The Fee's gasp swelled a thousand 
others, as the knife shot into the calcium beam from 
the darkness below, whirled with a thousand silver 
fires, and buried its point in the wood, blade grazing 
the cheek of the woman. A few seconds of breath- 
less suspense, and another followed, to graze the 
ear. Even Sydney forgot the man and girl in the 
box as he watched the whirling blades. The weird- 
ness of the thing held him fascinated ; the knives, 
hurled from the hands of the man who was invisible 
in the darkness below the single light beam, pin- 
wheeled through the light to find their place 
unerringly. 

Then something caused Sydney Thames to turn 
his eyes again to the lower box. At the instant a 
flash of lurid light leaped from the darkness, sil- 
houetting with startling vividness the seated man 
and girl. The roar of a pistol came to his ears ; 
and while the light cut the darkness he saw behind 
the seated man and girl the face of the youth who 
had been in the box with them ; the man whose 
jealousy had been shown so plainly. 

Pandemonium followed instantly. A chair 
crashed over in the darkness across the theatre ; 
clear above the cries of the panic-stricken men and 
women came the scream of a man : 

"My God! I didn't do it! I didn't ! I didn't !" 

The scream stopped. " Lights ! " frenziedly 
called some one from the darkness. 

They came. In the box opposite, Sydney Thames 
saw Cartwright struggling with the man whose face 
he had seen so distinctly in the pistol's flash. On 
the floor of the box, face downward, was the girl 
of the violin. Between her shoulders, on the white 
shirt waist, was a widening splotch of crimson. 



136 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



II. 

The girl was dead. The white-coated ambulance 
surgeon who examined her had shaken his head, 
and refused to take her in the ambulance. The 
morgue waggon had taken the body but a short 
time after the police reserves had beaten their way 
through a mob of thousands to arrest the white- 
faced, hysterical prisoner, who cried his innocence 
through Hps battered by the fist of Cartwright. 

In the precinct station the prisoner had collapsed, 
and Cartwright told his story. He had heard a 
slight noise, and swung around in his chair. At 
that instant came the flash of the pistol behind him. 
He heard the man drop it, and he leaped to grapple 
with him. Yes, he knew the prisoner ; name was 
Nelson, a half-baked kid, who had bothered Miss 
Reynolds for months. Yes, this was Miss Reynolds's 
first engagement ; her first appearance on any 
stage. He was her manager. No, nothing else. 
Emphatically ! 

The prisoner, brought around roughly, swore that 
he was innocent. He had known Miss Reynolds 
for months, they had been friends in Europe. She 
had asked him to be present at her first appearance, 
and at the end of her act he had gone to meet her 
at the stage entrance. It was there that he was 
told that she had an engagement with Cartwright. 
That this made him wild with jealousy he admitted ; 
he knew Cartwright by reputation, and Miss 
Reynolds was but a girl, innocent, unsophisticated. 

He had walked around outside the theatre for 
about fifteen minutes, then he had decided to go 
to the box and demand an explanation. The 
theatre was in darkness for the knife-throwing act, 
but he knew his way. His hand had been on the 
black velvet hangings when he stopped. And the 



THE FLYINO DEATH 



137 



revolver flash had come from the air not a foot 
ahead of him. No, he could not explain how the 
shot had been fired. No one could have moved from 
the spot where the pistol had been, because the 
weapon dropped on his toe ! 

He was taken away to a cell on a charge of 
murder. 

Cartwright, leaving the station when the last of 
the curious crowd had drifted away, seemed to have 
aged ten years since the tragedy. He was haggard, 
the grim, hard smile that had been characteristic 
was gone, his big hands trembled. He tried in vain 
to get permission to remove the girl's body from the 
morgue immediately. But the law demanded that 
the coroner see it first ; and the official was out of 
town. 

Cartwright remembered his political friends. He 
tried to locate a dozen over the telephone and failed. 
Then, by chance, he met the one man in the city 
who could help him ; the one man among the four 
millions whom he could trust : Theodore Rogers, 
the theatrical lawyer, a friend for thirty years. 

He tried to tell Rogers what he wanted, but his 
nervousness made his words a jumble. 

" What is it, Jim ? What's the trouble ? " 
Rogers shook him, and he looked into his eyes 
anxiously. 

Cartwright told him of the shooting. " And, by 
God, Ted ! " he finished passionately. " I won't 
rest a minute till I see that devil in the electric 
chair ! God ! To kill a girl like that ! " 

The lawyer looked at him curiously. This was 
not the cool, suave Cartwright he had known so 
long. 

Cartwright read the look on the lawyer's face, 
and the thoughts behind it. " Not that 1 I swear 
it's not that, Ted 1 " he choked. 



138 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



" Come, have a drink," pleaded Rogers, pulling 
him toward the lighted entrance of a rathskeller. 

" With that girl on a slab in the morgue ? " 

" One drink," insisted Rogers. " You are worse 
than useless this way. Come ! " 

He dragged Cartwright down the steps. The 
clock over the bar said half -past two, and the leather- 
seated booths were in darkness. But drinks could 
be had. The barman dozed, and the lone waiter 
yawned as he carried a tray toward the booths in 
the rear. Rogers led the theatrical man to a seat 
at the side of the room in front of the bar, ordered 
whisky, and waited patiently until Cartwright had 
gulped down the liquor. 

" Now tell me about it, Jim," demanded Rogers. 

Cartwright, as near the end of the leather seat 
as he could get, glanced at the dark booths in the 
back, then turned and surveyed the front of the 
place. The rathskeller was empty, except for the 
dozing barman and the waiter, who had gone into 
one of the front booths to figure his day's checks. 

" Don't think — what you've been thinking about 
me and that girl, Ted." There was almost pathetic 
pleading in the manager's voice ; it was pitched so 
low that even the lawyer at the other side of the 
narrow table could scarcely hear. " She was — a 
daughter to me — the daughter of the only woman 
I ever loved." 

Rogers stared. This from the man Broadway 
thought it knew ! 

" Remember twenty years ago ? " continued 
Cartwright, in that same low, pleading voice. 
" The girl I took away from Kelly, that drunken 
burlesque magician % " 

The lawyer nodded, a look of understanding in 
his eyes. 

" You know we loved each other, and we ran 

i 



THE FLYING DEATH 139 

away ; she, and I, and the six months' old kid/' 
he went on. ' 1 You know how she died : killed in 
the C. & O. wreck two hours out of Chicago, two 
hours after we started — and the kid under her 
body, alive ! I guess that's what woke me up. 
All I thought about after that was making money 
for the kid. I put her with good people, and I 
didn't tell them who she was, or who I was. When 
she got old enough to understand, I adopted her 
legally. But she never knew who her father and 
mother were. I couldn't tell her about the drunken 
sot that died in the Chicago alcoholic ward. A 
thing like that would have spoiled her. 

" She was born with music in her. I kept her 
away from me and the people that knew me. I 
sent her abroad. And to-night was her try-out ! 
I wanted to see if she could face the lights, because 
I wouldn't have her laughed at by the highbrows 
if she couldn't make good. And she did ! God, 
how they went wild ! I wouldn't tell a soul that 
she was my adopted daughter — until to-morrow. 

Now " He fingered his whisky glass with 

twitching hands. 

Theodore Rogers, whose heart was reputed to be 
of stone, felt a lump in his throat. He pushed his 
gloves from the table, so in bending he would get 
the needed instant to hide his feelings. Something 
made him jerk up his head ! He saw 

The roar of the pistol in his ears deafened him. 
He cried out as the long-barrelled gun recoiled 
across the table and struck him, butt foremost, on 
the chest. His glass was crashed to a hundred 
pieces as the pistol fell on the table before him. 
The white shirt front of Cartwright was black, a 
small circle of fire glowed in the linen ; on his face 
was an awful look of horror as his head pitched 
forward on his arms. 



140 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



And then Rogers understood what his eyes had 
first seen ; the picture that had lasted but the 
hundredth part of a second, perhaps, but which 
would be graven on his mind for a lifetime. 

He had seen the pistol against Cartwright's 
heart, with nothing to hold it there ; the recoil of the 
explosion had driven it across the table before it 
fell, because no human hand had grasped it ; no 
finger had pulled the trigger ! 

III. 

In the darkness of his library Thornley Colton 
paced back and forth. The cigarette-end glowed 
and died as he puffed thoughtfully. Each detail 
of the girl's murder at the theatre, described to him 
by the excited Sydney, while panic had raged above 
them and below them in the playhouse the night 
before, was being visualized by the wonderful brain 
that so unerringly found logic in seeming absurdity ; 
explanation in apparent impossibility — because that 
brain had never been tricked by seeing eyes. 

The murder of the girl had moved him mightily ; 
the stilling forever of that wonderful music seemed 
more a crime against the world than against an 
individual. And as he paced the curtained room 
the mosaics of detail became a complete picture, 
and he knew — knew — that the man who had left 
their box so hurriedly the night before ; the man 
whom Sydney had seen fire the shot, was guiltless 
of the murder ! 

He turned to face the door as hurried footsteps 
proclaimed to his trained, supersensitive ears that 
Sydney Thames was approaching. 

" Cart wright has been murdered I " cried the red- 
cheeked secretary breathlessly. " It happened too 
late for the morning papers, but The Fee got some 



THE FLYING DEATH 



141 



early extras of the evening editions with full 
details." 

" Where ? How ? " asked Colton. 

" In an up-town rathskeller. He was shot by 
Theodore Rogers, the lawyer." 

" He was not," corrected the blind man quietly, 

" How did you hear of it ? " demanded Sydney, 
in surprise. 

" This is the first intimation I had of such a thing, 
but your statement was just a little too positive ; 
your voice told me that you believe Rogers guilty 
because of the utter impossibility of the story he 
must have given the police." 

Sydney flushed. " But his story is crazy, insane 1 " 
he insisted. 

" Perhaps if I heard it " suggested Colton. 

Excitedly, with utter disbelief in his voice, Sydney 
Thames told of the unheld pistol Rogers swore he 
saw ; of its firing with no finger near the trigger ; 
of its recoil, and fall. 

" Of course the police arrested him," continued 
Sydney. ' ' Cartwright held a lot of Rogers's paper. 
That's the motive. They've got a clear case, as 
clear as the one against the love-crazed kid who 
shot the violinist." 

" Just as clear," echoed Colton slowly. Then : 
" But haven't you withheld the fact that the pistols 
used in both murders are exactly alike ? " 

" How — did you know — that ? " gasped Sydney. 
Many times he had heard the blind man make such 
amazing statements, but they always startled him. 

" Because both crimes were committed by the 
same man in the same way ! " 

" But Nelson, the kid who vshot the girl, was 
locked up in a cell," protested Thames. 

" Exactly," admitted the blind man. "But he 
killed Cartwright as surely as he murdered the girl," 



142 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



It was several seconds before the meaning of that 
sentence struck Sydney. " He shot that girl in the 
back ! " rebelled Thames. " I saw his face over 
the flash of the pistol. Even he admits that no one 
else could have fired it, because it fell on his toe ! " 

" Rogers swears that no one did fire the bullet 
which killed Cartwright," reminded Colton. " And 
the pistol fell on the table in front of him. ,, 

" That's impossible," asserted Thames emphatic- 
ally. " Some one must have held the gun. Some 
one must have pulled the trigger. There can be no 
explanation of what he says he saw. The days of 
ghosts and black magic have passed." 

" But not the days of black murder," retorted 
Colton. " There is no black art, ghosts, or hypno- 
tism in the murders of last night. The method is 
unique, that's all." 

He picked up the slim, hollow stick he always 
carried. " I'm going to find that murderer," he 
said. " A man who could kill a girl like that is 
either a fiend or a hideous blunderer. I think it's 
the latter. Will you call the machine ? " 

The big automobile was always ready for instant 
service, day or night, and ten minutes later they 
were on their way down town. Beside the driver, 
eager-eyed, joyful, was The Fee. Colton had 
promised to let him help on the case, and the boy's 
cup of happiness was full. The Fee had but two 
heroes : Thornley Colton in real life ; Nick Carter 
in his favourite fiction. 

" We'll go to police head-quarters first," decided 
Colton. " The prisoners will be there this morning, 
and I'd like to question Rogers." Then he got 
from Sydney all the details the papers had given of 
Cartwright's murder. 

The Fee found a friendly doorman when they 
reached police head-quarters and prepared to have 



TEE FLYING DEATH 



143 



the time of his life. Colton's card secured them 
grudging admittance to the office of the chief of 
detectives. The chief, like his men, had all the 
professional's scorn for the amateur, but he knew 
the blind man, with his wide acquaintance with 
influential people, was not a person to antagonize. 
And the police had found Rogers a different pro- 
position from the youth whose infatuation had led 
him to the dark box and the murder charge. The 
lawyer was well known, and his story demanded 
respect despite the utter impossibility of the thing 
he described. Of course, the barman and the waiter 
had been arrested as witnesses, but they had not 
seen the actual shooting. The barman had been 
dozing, and the waiter had been busy in a front 
booth. The shot had aroused them. 

" Going to give us some more pointers ? " asked 
the chief tolerantly, when he had shaken hands 
with Colton and nodded curtly to Sydney. 

" I'd like to look into that double-murder case 
a bit," confessed the problemist, paying no attention 
to the tone. 

" You mean the two murders committed last 
night," corrected the chief gruntingly. " Nothing 
to 'em. We've got the goods on young Nelson. 
Twenty people in the three front rows saw him do 
it. And Rogers's fool story is enough to hang any 
man." The real detective's scorn for the criminal 
whose methods are crude came to his voice. " He 
might have got away with a suicide story — Cart- 
wright was all broken up about the girl — but Rogers 
swears it wasn't suicide, because the manager's 
hands were not near the pistol when it was fired. 
He says Cartwright's look was one of horror, as if 
he'd seen his end coming, and couldn't get away 
from it." 

" He did see his death coming," put in Colton 



144 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



quietly ; " and I think that during the last instant 
he lived he realized at whose hand it came." 

" You think he got wise to Rogers at the end, 
eh ? " guessed the chief. 

" No ! " The negative was sharp. " Rogers had 
no more to do with the murder than you or I. 
Cartwright was killed by a man who had been 
planning the murder for years ; the death of the 
girl was a terrible mistake." 

The chief jumped from his chair. " What do you 
know ? " he demanded. 

; " Nothing — definitely. With a little help from 
you I think I can show you the real murderer." 

" You can't show me any murderer but Rogers 
and Nelson," snapped the chief, with an air of 
finality. " Because you can't convince me or 
anybody else that a man could see what Rogers 
says he saw. A pistol with no hand near it. It's 
impossible ! It's dam* foolishness ! " He snorted. 

Unconsciously Sydney Thames found himself 
nodding confirmation. That was the whole thing : 
an impossibility. No one had been near Cartwright 
but Rogers. The girl had been shot in the back, 
and no one could have been behind her but Nelson. 
This last Sydney knew, and had seen. 

" Let me see the pistols which killed Cartwright 
and the girl, and I'll convince you that the same 
man murdered both," offered Colton. 

" Duplicate guns aren't so rare," instantly re- 
sented the chief. This man was practically telling 
him that he didn't know his business ! 

" Those two pistols — and others that may be in 
the possession of the murderer — are the only ones 
of their kind in the world ! " 

" Look at 'em, then." The chief grabbed them 
from his desk. " They're a standard German make, 
single-shot target pistols, blued steel, with barrels 



THE FLYING DEATH 



145 



six inches long, numbered and sold all over 
Europe." 

Colton took the two pistols, and Sydney drew 
his chair closer to see. 

" In the first place," began the blind man, as 
his thin, supersensitive fingers examined one gun, 
while the other lay on his knees, " murderers don't 
usually have this kind of pistol. They can't be 
carried in any ordinary pocket, and " — his fore- 
finger-tip rested over the shallow slot near the 
muzzle — " you never before saw target pistols 
without front sights ! " 

" Took 'em off so they wouldn't catch in the 
pocket," grunted the chief knowingly. 

Colton's Hps curved in a smile. " An ingenious 
theory," he grunted. " Have you one to fit the 
banged-up appearance of these butts ? " He held 
out the pistol and indicated the nicks and scratches. 

" Been used to hammer nails," declared the chief, 
exaggerated weariness in his voice. " Gun owners 
use 'em that way sometimes, like a woman uses a 
hairbrush. Nothing to that." 

" Yes there is ! No gun owner in the world ever 
drove a nail by holding a gun vertically, hand on the 
barrel, and pounding it up and down like a pile 
driver ! See, the hard usage doesn't show on the 
bottom of the butt, as it would have done had the 
pistol been swung as a hammer. The dents and 
scratches are all on the outside edge ! " 

The chief took the extended gun. The sarcastic 
smile on his lips faded as he tried the two ways of 
holding it. The blind man was right ! No driving 
of nails could have made nicks and scratches where 
they were on this pistol ! " What's that got to do 
with the murder ? " he growled. 

" Everything," answered the problemist shortly. 
He took the other pistol on his palm. " Didn't it 



146 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



strike you that these were two finely balanced 
pistols, even for target use % " Before the chief 
could reply Colton shot another inquiry : " Didn't 
you wonder at the fact that both triggers had been 
filed to a hair so that the slightest jar would cause 
the hammer to fall? See ! " He cocked the pistol 
and jammed the muzzle against the chief's desk. 
The hammer clicked down sharply. He tried it 
again, this time jamming the butt down on a chair 
arm. Once more the hammer snapped on the empty 
chamber. 

The chief's jaw dropped. " That's how those 
nicks were made ! " he ejaculated, shocked from 
his supercilious attitude. The lightning-like ques- 
tions, the proving of fact after fact by Colton, had 
disconcerted him. In ten minutes the man who was 
sightless had shown him details that neither his keen 
eyes nor the eyes of his hundred men had seen, and 
Colton had made of those details startling, vivid 
possibilities. 

" May I speak to Mr. Rogers ? " Colton asked 
the question quietly, simply, but under his voice 
was a subtle note that was dominantly compelling ; 
a note that had made bigger and stronger men than 
the chief of the New York detective bureau bow to 
his wishes. 

" That's all very interesting stuff," began the 
chief pompously, " but Rogers is the man who shot 
Cartwright, and we know that Cartwright held a 
dozen thousand dollars's worth of his paper." 

The door opened to admit an attache, and Sydney 
hid a grin with his hand. He had seen the chief 
press the call button even before he began to speak. 

" Bring Rogers here," grunted the head of the 
detective bureau. 

The lawyer came in a moment later, and the two 
men who accompanied him were curtly ordered out. 



THE FLYING DEATH 



147 



The strong face of the prisoner was marred by lines 
indicating loss of sleep ; his lips were shut grimly, 
a scowl creased his forehead, his eyes, sharp and 
piercing, were fixed on the chief. 

" This is Mr. Colton, Rogers," introduced the 
detective shortly. " He's got a sort of a theory on 
the Cartwright murder." 

" If it's the right one he'll save you a lot of 
trouble," snapped the lawyer ungraciously. He 
turned to Colton. " I've heard of your work on 
the Villers case." His tone was almost amiable ; 
then into it came dull wonder. " But that was 
simplicity itself beside this. I saw that revolver 
before the shot was fired, unsupported by human 
hands, against Jim Cartwright's shirt front. It 
must have flown there on invisible wings ! " 

The chief grunted sarcastically, as he had grunted 
at each repetition of that unvarying statement. 

Thornley Colton, tapping his foot lightly with his 
thin stick, looked up. " That is just what it did 
do ! " he said. The three men stared blankly. 
The blind man continued : " According to the 
newspapers, Mr. Rogers, you said that something 
caused you to jerk up your head in time to see that 
picture. Do you know what it was ? " 

"I do not." Rogers shook his head. " I can 
only describe it as some inner impulse." 

" Wasn't it " — Thornley Colton's tone was impres- 
sive — " wasn't it a shadow, a swift-passing shadow, 
your eyes saw on the floor % " 

Rogers leaped to his feet. " By Heaven, it was ! " 
he shouted. " I remember now ! " His voice 
trembled with excitement. " I had lowered my 
head, and across the streak of light between the 
seat edge and table flew a shadow — like a bird 
passing overhead." He stopped suddenly, the 
bewildered look on his face telling the sudden 



148 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



realization of his words. " How could you know 
that ? " he burst out. 

" The human brain is a curious thing," explained 
the blind man slowly. " It unconsciously records 
impressions the eyes give, but they are instantly 
forgotten — because the giving is so automatic — 
until something recalls them. Without sight I have 
been compelled to figure all things in my brain. 
Even the steps that you take without seeing must 
be mentally visualized by me. I knew it must have 
been a shadow that caused you to look up. To you 
it was merely one of the thousand unconscious- 
conscious things your eyes see during the day which 
are locked up in the brain until some outside 
influence brings them back." 

" You can solve this thing ! " Rogers shot out 
the words as if he had just made a wonderful 
discovery. The blind man's conscious power in 
himself had won the confidence of the lawyer ; 
made him realize that there was some logical 
explanation for 'the thing which his eyes had seen, 
and which his reason refused to accept. He forgot 
that he was a prisoner formally charged with 
murder, he paced the room nervously. And the 
chief, scowling down at his desk, was silent. " If 
you can find the man who killed Jim Cartwright ! " 
The excitement died from Roger's voice, a new tone 
came. " I knew him for thirty years, yet I never 
knew him until last night ! " 

" I want to bring to justice the man that could 
kill a girl whose soul held the music of Miss 
Reynolds's." There was unconscious rebuke in the 
problemist's voice. All his powers he had brought 
to avenge the innocent girl ; but he knew his efforts 
must be concentrated on the Cartwright murder 
because that was the key, the only key that would 
lead to the murderer. 



THE FLYING DEATH 



149 



" The love-crazed kid did that ! He " Rogers 

stopped, his eyes saw the two pistols side by side on 
the commissioner's desk. Instantly his keen brain 
recognised the significance. " They're the same ! " 
he exclaimed. 

" What were Cartwright's relations with Miss 
Reynolds ? " It was a command, as Colton put it. 
Rogers lifted his eyes from the two pistols. 

" You wrong Jim Cartwright," he said quietly. 
" You've accepted the general opinion of him ; the 
opinion he never cared enough about to refute. He 
wasn't an angel, but he wasn't the devil a thousand 
jealousies have painted him. I'm going to tell you 
the story he told me last night." And he did, with 
all the deep feeling of his friendship, splendidly, 
simply. 

As the men listened they understood the tragedy 
of Cartwright's love for the woman who had been 
killed in the first moments of her new-found hap- 
piness — and his ; of the little girl he had taken from 
her dead mother's arms to work for, to protect, to 
give the happiness the mother had been denied — 
only to see her foully murdered when her cup of joy 
had but just been filled. The fiendishness of it held 
them spell-bound. The two beings that Cartwright 
had loved had been snatched from him, and he had 
been killed, knowing in the last instant of his life 
that the real murderer of the girl was not even 
suspected, could not be suspected, because of the 
devilish ingenuity of his crime. 

" Kelly, the drunken magician, is the man who 
killed Cartwright ! " ejaculated the chief. 

Rogers was startled for a moment, but Colton, 
with an inscrutable smile on his thin lips, put a 
question : 

" The father of the girl is dead, isn't he % " 
Rogers glanced at the blind man in surprise. 



150 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



" Yes," he admitted. " He died in the alcohoUc 
ward of a Chicago hospital three months after his 
wife was killed. He was buried in the potters' field." 

" Where did you find that out ? " scowlingly 
demanded the chief. 

" That I didn't proves the fact," answered the 
blind man crisply. " If Cartwright hadn't known 
he was dead you'd have heard of him before. Do 
you want me to go on ? " he asked. 

"Might as well," granted the chief. "Maybe 
this is your lucky day." 

; " Then I'd like to ask a few questions of the boy 
who was arrested as Miss Reynolds's murderer." 

The chief gave the order, but there was a light 
of triumphant anticipation in his eyes as he waited. 
Unlike the murderer of Cartwright, there was 
nothing mysterious in the killing of the girl, despite 
the clever efforts of the blind man to prove differ- 
ently. A score of persons had seen the flash of the 
pistol from the rear of the box. His men had 
examined the velvet-hung wall toward which the 
girl's back had been, and there was not a break in 
it, not a crack. 

When the boy — he was little more — was led in 
by two detectives there came a look of pity to the 
faces of Sydney and Rogers. He staggered to a 
chair when the men released his arms. His lips were 
purple and torn where Cartwright had beaten him 
to the floor the night before. A haunting look of 
terror was in his eyes ; his face was pasty white. 

"I didn't do it! I didn't! I didn't!" he 
whispered hoarsely, when he had wet his dry lips 
to make even the whisper possible. 

Colton put his hand on the boy's shoulder. " I 
know you didn't," he said, and there was a world of 
sympathy in his voice. A new look came to the boy's 
eyes, a trembling hand sought that of the blind man. 



THE FLYING DEATH 



151 



" I loved her and she loved me," he said chokingly. 
" We were going to be married — but that Cartwright 

" Shrill vehemence came to the tone, and he 

stopped. 

Colton's hand quieted him. " listen closely now, 
Mr. Nelson, and tell me if this is what happened : 
You groped your way to the box with your right 
hand on the wall. You felt the black velvet hang- 
ings, stopped, and the pistol went off while your 
right hand was stretched above you, on the hangings, 
and you were facing the door that led back off the 
stage." 

" I remember that ! " interjected Sydney. " His 
left side was towards Cartwright and the girl ! " 

" Yet you said that the pistol flash crossed his 
body." 

" It did ! " broke in the boy. " It was not 
twelve inches ahead of me ! My right foot was 
extended to take another step, and the pistol fell 
on my toe ! " 

Colton turned to the three listening men. " To 
have fired that shot he would have had to double 
his left arm behind him and have shot around his 
body — a physical impossibility, even with a long- 
barrelled pistol." He placed his hand gently on 
the boy's shoulder once more. " Go outside to the 
men who brought you in," he said. " You will be 
free in a few hours." 

Silently the boy obeyed. When Colton faced 
them again there was a curious expression on his 
face ; the expression of a man who has seen a 
thoughtless boy destroy a priceless work of art by 
his clumsiness. 

" He killed that girl as surely as if he had placed 
the pistol at her back," he said sadly. " Yet he is 
as innocent of her murder as a child unborn ! " 

Eager questions, demands for an explanation of 



152 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



that cryptic remark, were fairly hurled at the blind 
man by the excited Rogers. What did he mean ? 
How could the boy have killed Miss Reynolds and 
not be guilty of her murder ? How had she been 
killed ? By whom ? Sydney Thames forbore the 
questions he knew would not be answered. The 
chief scowled down at the two pistols, silent, thought- 
ful. Colton's statement regarding the firing of the 
pistol across the boy's body had struck him like a 
dash of cold water. It was true ! The boy could 
not have fired the shot that killed the girl ! Once 
more the blind man's unerring instinct for truth 
had torn down the case he and his men had been 
building for hours. In less than five minutes the 
sightless problemist had proved a fact that twenty 
pairs of eyes had failed to see. 

" Where are the two men who were arrested in 
the rathskeller % " asked Colton curtly, utterly 
ignoring the questions. 

" Bailed by their boss," answered the chief. 
" They can only establish details anyway.' ' 

" I want to interview at least one of them," 
declared Colton. " I also want to visit the raths- 
keller. Can Mr. Rogers go, in your company, of 
course ? " 

" Yes." The chief took the responsibility unhesi- 
tatingly. He realized that he must see the thing 
through now. 

" Is your machine down here ? I want to send 
my boy on an errand with mine." 

" Outside, waiting." The chief took his hat and 
coat from the tree. " I'll go with Rogers while he 
gets his," he added, as he opened the door. 

The blind man hurried out, feet unerringly re- 
tracing the steps his brain had registered when they 
entered. The red-haired boy ran from the group 
of detectives he had been entertaining. 



THE FLYING DEATH 



153 



" Shrimp ! " The blind man used the name he 
always called the boy, and took him aside. He 
whispered instructions, thrust two or three bills 
into the other's hand. The youngster darted for the 
machine, and jumped up beside the driver as the 
chief and Rogers came from the front door. 

In silence the quartet climbed into the car ; in 
silence they made the journey to the rathskeller, 
where James Cartwright had been shot a few hours 
before. The waiter who had been on duty early 
in the morning was again on hand, heavy-eyed. 
The barman was at his home. 

" Where's the booth you occupied ? " asked 
Colton of Rogers, when the chief had established 
their identity with the nervous proprietor. 

The lawyer went to it, stopped at the table, and 
stared down at the dark stain that could not be 
removed. 

" This is where we were," he said huskily. 

Colton stepped in between the table and the seat 
edge, and sat down, facing the rear of the rathskeller. 
44 Cartwright was seated at the end of the seat, like 
this ? " He illustrated. 

Rogers nodded. 44 He was on the extreme end, 
so he could assure himself that no one would hear." 

Colton rose, and with only the slim stick to guide 
him, made his way to a booth that faced the front 
of the rathskeller, at right angles to the one where 
the watching men still stood. 

44 Who was in this booth when Cartwright was 
shot ? " It was snapped out like the crack of a 
whip to the waiter. 

44 No-body," faltered the serving man, wincing 
under the battery of eyes. 

44 There was ! " The voice held accusation. 44 A 
man was in this booth, and he entered a moment 
or so before Mr. Rogers and Mr. Cartwright I " 



154 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



The waiter brushed his dry lips with the back of 
his hand. " He couldn't have had nothin' to do 
with it," he mumbled, fingers twisting and untwist- 
ing the napkin in his hands. 

" No one said he did ! " said the blind man 
sharply. " You've been a witness in a murder case 
before, haven't you 1 " 

The watching men saw a look of alarm come to 
the man's eyes. The chief stepped toward him 
menacingly. " Yes, sir," muttered the waiter, 
shrinking. " I saw a man shot while I was at the 
Royal. The police kept me in the detention for 
three months, and I lost my job." 

There was a grim smile on Colton's lips as he 
nodded understandingly. "You weren't going to 
take a chance on that again, were you ? " His 
tone was less brusque. " I'll assure you that you 
won't be held a minute if you give me a description 
of the man." 

The chief opened his mouth, then closed it with 
a snap. 

" Then I'll tell you," consented the waiter eagerly. 
" He was a good-sized guy, with a yellow, old- 
lookin' face, bald-headed, with a scar on the top, 
and he had eyes that was like slits. He came in 
that door." He pointed to one that opened at the 
rear corner of the rathskeller, apparently on a side 
street. " He was so drunk he couldn't hardly 
walk, and he almost fell into the seat. I was goin' 
to put him out, we closed in half an hour, an' I 
didn't want to have to throw no drunks in the 

street. But he wanted a whisky and " The 

waiter flushed and stopped. 

" Go on," prodded Colton. 

The waiter looked at the proprietor and gulped 
nervously. " He gave me a five-spot, an' told me to 
keep the change. I was bringin' the drink when the 



THE FLYING DEATH 



155 



other two came in. I got theirs, and went up front 
to figger my cheeks. Then I heard the shot. When 
I thought of the drunk again he was gone. But 
he couldn't 'a' done nothin\ He had a horrible 
bun, an' we seen the gun layin' in front of this guy." 
He indicated Rogers. " Me an' the bartender 
figgered we wouldn't say nothin' about him. If 
we did the police 'Id put us in the detention till 
they found him. His gettin' out like that would 
'a' looked suspicious to them if it didn't to nobody 
else. He was scared sober an' beat it quick. That's 
my idear." 

" Probably he'd had an experience in the house 
of detention, too," declared the blind man dryly ; 
then : " You never saw him before % " 

" No, sir." 

" That's all. Let's go, chief. There's a detail I 
want to clear up at the theatre. I've got to prove 
that girl's murder." Again there was the ominous 
ring in the problemist's voice. 

The chief glowered at the waiter. " You stay 
right here till I want you," he warned. " If you 
try to beat it you go up the river." He turned to 
Colton. " Wait a minute, until I call up head- 
quarters. I'll give 'em the description of that drunk, 
and have every man in the city on his trail." 

" And spend a week following up clues," snapped 
the blind man impatiently. " I'll show you where 
he is in less than an hour ! " 

He paid no further attention to the gaping chief 
of detectives, but made his way out of the place, 
the silent Sydney Thames at his elbow, the latter's 
coat sleeve lightly touching that of Thornley Colton. 
And the chief followed meekly. 

The blind man climbed into the front seat with 
the driver, and Sydney realized that he wanted to 
avoid interrogation ; to figure out the last steps 



156 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



alone. But in the tonneau the men could not resist 
voicing the questions that filled their minds. Who 
had killed Miss Reynolds, and what could have 
been the object of the murder ? What connection 
could a drunken man have with the murder of 
Cartwright ; with a pistol that had been fired 
without the aid of human hands ? 

They were at the theatre. The box-office had 
just been opened for the day, and the manager 
took them into the darkened house. The big 
interior, dim and tomblike, sent a shudder through 
Sydney Thames. Last night there had been brilliant 
lights, happy men, laughing women — and the girl 
of the violin. To-day the great stage gaped before 
them, huge, untenanted ; the seats were covered 
with their white dust cloths ; voices sounded eerie 
in the barnlike emptiness. The velvet hangings 
at the rear of the box, which had looked so striking 
with their sleek blackness the night before, now 
appeared worn and dusty. The overturned chairs 
had been righted, the blood-stained carpet had 
been replaced. 

Thornley Colton's thin stick located the chairs. 
His right hand groped along the wall, so that the 
velvet moved under it. He thrust his slim cane 
under his arm, and the wonderful fingers went over 
the velvet inch by inch, sometimes so strongly that 
the thick stuff moved under them, then the pressure 
was so light that not a quiver of the loose velvet 
betrayed their presence. Inch by inch the feeling 
fingers made their way, as the men watched breath- 
lessly. Rogers could stand it no longer. 

" Was the murderer concealed behind those 
hangings ? " he asked excitedly. 

" No," Colton answered him, without moving. 
" The pistol flash came from this side of the velvet." 

Silence came again. The slow-moving fingers 



THE FLYING DEATH 



157 



stopped. The blind man looked up ; then his 
doubly keen ears caught the sound of hurrying 
footsteps coming toward them down the aisle. 

" A telephone message for me ? " he asked, as 
the attache stopped. 

" Mr. Colton ? " 

" Yes." He turned to the others. " Come ! I 
think this is the last detail." 

They were at his heels as he entered the boxlike 
office. Tense, expectant, though they knew not for 
what, they listened to the one-sided conversation. 

" Yes. Good. Did you see him ? No, that's all 
right. Stay there until we come." He spoke an 
aside to the ticket-seller : " Will you please take 
this address for me ? " The man picked up his 
pencil and drew a small pad toward him. " Nine 
hundred and ninety-seven West Forty-fourth." 
The blind man hung up the receiver. 

" What is it ? " The question was chorused by 
the excited men. 

" The address of the man who murdered Cart- 
wright and Miss Reynolds ! " 

IV. 

Before the gasps of amazement, the ejaculations 
of incredulity could become coherent questions, 
Thornley Colton had turned and made his way from 
the office, light stick dangling idly from his fingers. 
Dazedly they followed him from the theatre and 
into the waiting automobile. He had located the 
murderer of Cartwright and the girl ! They were 
dumb with the wonder of it. Swiftly, unerringly, 
the blind man had found the murderer whose very 
being they had not suspected a short time before. 
To the men who had followed every step of the 
problemist, who had seen things that he could not 



158 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



see, the finding seemed magic comparable only to 
the magic of the pistol that had apparently flown 
from the air to deal its death. There was a new 
expression on the face of the chief of detectives 
now. The scowl was gone ; the sarcastic curve of 
lips had vanished. In their place had come wonder, 
tinged with awe toward the man who had builded a 
wonderful structure of truth from the pieces he and 
his hundred men had either discarded or had not seen. 

The car turned into Forty-fourth, passed the 
brownstone houses where every door bore its sign : 
" Table Board. Furnished Rooms." A red-headed 
boy ran out into the street, and the chauffeur 
slowed up. 

" It's free houses down, Mr. Colton." The Fee's 
voice fairly trembled with excitement. " He's on 
the top floor. Kin I go with yuh ? " 

Colton nodded and stepped down from the 
machine. " We'll walk the rest of the way," he 
told them. He started, the bright-eyed boy at his 
elbow. 

They mounted the steps of a brownstone house, 
and Colton rang the bell. A frowsy-haired lady in 
a grease-spotted kimono opened the door. The 
smell of cooking onions assailed their nostrils ; 
somewhere within a piano banged out a ragtime 
tune ; a raucous voice screeched : "I call her Little 
Hy'cinth, but her name's M'Swigg ; " from the 
depths of the house a squeaky clarinet piped off- 
key opera. 

" Profesh'n ? " snapped the lady of the kimono 
suspiciously before any one had a chance to speak. 

" We want to see Signor Delvetoi," said the blind 
man quietly. 

Sydney Thames never remembered the short 
colloquy that followed ; never recollected just how 
they entered the house. Signor Delvetoi ! That 



TEE FLYING DEATH 



159 



name drove everything else from his mind. Once 
more he saw the black-clothed, black-bearded man 
at the theatre ; again he saw the whirling knives 
flashing from the darkness into the beam of the 
calcium to bury their points beside the woman of 
the golden frame ; once more came to his mind 
the wonderful skill that had directed those keen- 
pointed knives toward their target of living flesh — 
to brush a cheek and not even scratch it. 

Then he found himself following the others up 
the narrow stairs. In the second floor hall- way a 
fat, greasy-faced woman murmured husky endear- 
ments to a monkey in her arms, while a goose 
waddled at her side. A dozen discordant tunes 
came from the closed rooms. This was the place they 
had come to arrest a murderer ! 

On the third floor Thornley Colton stopped and 
knocked on a door panel. Thomas could feel the 
tenseness of the men's bodies as they crowded up 
close to the door as it slowly opened. Standing 
before them, framed in the light that came into 
the hallway from the room, stood a big man in a 
stained red bath-robe that trailed the floor behind 
the worn carpet-slippers. His head was bald, and 
across the skull ran a livid scar ; his face was a 
deep-lined, jaundiced yellow. 

" We want you for the murder of Cartwright and 
the girl at the theatre." That was all Colton said, 
and his voice was low. 

For an instant the face of the man went a fish- 
belly white ; then murderous red rage leaped to the 
cheeks, and darted from the slit eyes. 

" You devils ! " he shrieked. 

The red robe was flung back ; but with a move- 
ment as quick as light itself Colton's hand darted 
out, closed with a grip of steel on a wrist, and the 
red robe whirled as the man spun to his knees. 



160 THE FOURTH PROBLEM 

" Better handcuff him," advised the blind man 
quietly, as he pushed aside the fallen knife with 
the thin cane that had warned him of the murderous 
movement. The handcuffs clicked on the knife- 
thrower's wrists as the chief dragged him to a chair. 

"So you're the one, eh ? " The detective chief 
tried to make his tone casual, but he could not keep 
the wonder from his eyes, or voice. 

" Oh, you got me right," sneered the knife- 
thrower. 

" How did you do it ? " put in Rogers dazedly. 
The picture he had seen the night before was still 
in his mind. 

A cunning light leaped to the half-closed eyes 
of the red-robed man. " D'you want to hear the 
whole thing ? " he asked. " You might as well," 
he boasted. " I'll never swing for it." 

" Go ahead," growled the chief, drawing his chair 
up closer and placing his revolver on his knees. 
The knife-thrower grinned sneeringly. 

" Well," he began, and his evil eyes seemed to 
gloat at them. " I'm the only man in the world 
that could have pulled the trick. It took years of 
practice to get it down pat, but there's Indian blood 
in me, mixed with the Irish. They don't know 
much about me in this country, and I didn't want 
them to, till I got Jim Cartwright. But in Europe 
I'm the best in the business, and I'm the only one 
that could ever plant five knives in a spot the size 
of a half dollar at thirty feet, and do it on the 
level." 

There was boasting in the tone, but to Sydney 
Thames, who had seen his amazing work of the night 
before, it was not idle boasting. 

" The story of why I killed Cartwright is the same 
old game : I had a woman and he took her. She 
wasn't much good, only a doll-faced fool, and there 



THE FLYING DEATH 



161 



was a squalling kid that got on my nerves ; but 
she was mine, body and soul." The listening men 
gritted their teeth at the tone, and he sneered at 
them for it. " Cartwright took her, and I went 
after them both. I had a little money, I was 
headin' the oho in a burlesque. Before I started 
I went in a place along the river front in Chicago, 
where I was. I musta showed my roll, because — 
now I don't expect you to believe what's comin', 
and I don't give a damn whether you do or not ! " 
There was sullen defiance in the voice. " But I 
woke up in a hospital I never saw before, and the 
nurse talked German ! It was in Berlin, and it was 
ten years after ! Oh, it wasn't anything new, the 
doctors told me. One of the Windy City thugs 
had lead-piped me for my roll ; you can see the scar 
I got. Something cracked in my head then, and 
when I woke I'd just been in a German train smash- 
up. The doctors said the bump I got there straight- 
ened me out. 

" I remembered everything after a while. I was 
doin' a knife-throwin* act. Some wop had picked 
me up when I didn't know my own name, and 
brought me to Europe with him. Somehow the 
kink had kept me off the booze, and I was even 
better than him, and he was the best in the world, 
bar none. He died a few months after I got out, 
and I copped his layout. We'd been rehearsin' a 
stunt that was going to make 'em all sit up. The 
Flyin' Death, we called it, and we threw pistols 
instead of knives. We had a blank board at one 
end of the stage, and a target at the other. We'd 
stand in the centre, let it fly at the blank board, 
duck, and the butt striking would jar down the 
trigger, and the bullet'd go over our heads and hit 
the bull's-eye three times out of five. It was big 
stuff ! But I wasn't satisfied, because I wanted to 



162 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



hit the bull's-eye every time. I was goin' to play 
that act fer one man ; the one that stole my wife 
and ten years out of my life. So I put in two more 
years on the Continent, still practisin'. If you 
looked at the nicks in the pistol-butts you can see 
how many times they'd been used. 

" When I got so I couldn't go wrong I came to 
the States. I learned I was dead — one of the thugs 
that got my coin and papers, I guess. But that 
suited me right down to the ground. I found 
Cartwright was the big cheese in the business, but 
I; couldn't find the wife, or the kid. I wanted to 
get them, too ; ten years don't make no difference 
to me." Again came the sneer to the evil, yellow 
face, as his eyes caught their looks of horror and 
disgust. " I spent a year touring here before I 
could book Cartwright' s house. I wanted to get 
him right before everybody's eyes. That's why I 
had that dark act. He was up to the rehearsal in 
the mornin' with a kid that looked something like 
the woman he stole, but it wasn't my kid, because 
he made it plain he was only her manager. You can 
bet he'd a showed it if he had claims. I heard him 
make a date for the box after her act, and that 
looked good to me, because I'd get him right beside 
her. 

" Under the knives for the spotlight act was the 
pistol with a real cartridge, of course. I only used 
minichure ones with a pinch of powder for the act. 
The guns was balanced special in Germany, and the 
front sights was off the barrels so they could slide 
out of my hand. I could see the white of the girl's 
waist and his shirt between every knife-throw, 
because I waited a few seconds each time to get 
'em right. Then, when I knew I couldn't make a 
mistake, I let the gun fly. I was goin' to have the 
butt hit the wall in back of him, and bullet catch 



THE FLYING DEATH 



163 



him between the shoulders. It was easy, because I 
was above him on the stage, and I thought there 
couldn't be any suspicion because I was in front 
of him, and he'd be shot in the back. But that darn' 
fool kid," he spat out snarlingly, " had to have his 
hands on the hanging just when the gun hit, and 
throw it off enough to kill the girl." 

Sydney Thames gasped audibly. 

" It wasn't my fault she was in the way, but a 
little thing like that wasn't going to keep me from 
gettin' the man I wanted. I got another of the guns 
out of my prop trunk and went after him. I couldn't 
get him right until I heard the other feller arguin' 
with him in front of the rathskeller. I ducked 
around to the side-door. I'd been in there before, 
but I'd had my black stage-whiskers and wig on, 
and the waiter didn't know me. I played drunk, 
and gave the waiter a five-spot for a drink, and told 
him not to turn on the booth-light. 

" Cartwright faced my booth, but I was in the 
dark. They started to whisper. The waiter was 
out of sight, and the bartender was sleepin'. I had 
the gun ready for five minutes. This man bent 
down — and I let her fly. There wasn't going to be 
any mistake this time, because I was going to put 
another half turn on the gun and make it jam its 
muzzle against his heart. No chance of missin' 
that way ! And he saw the gun comin' when it 
was too late to dodge ! And he knew me then ! 
And the last thing he ever saw was me grinnin' at 
him ! It was a cinch to slope out in the excitement 
after." 

There was silence in the room when he had 
finished. From beyond the closed door came the 
discordant medley of the tinny piano, the screeching 
clarinet, the hoarse- voiced singers. Before them a 
manacled man, with sneers in his voice, and boasts, 



164 



TEE FOURTH PROBLEM 



and snarls, had just told them of the man whose 
death he had accomplished with such fiendish 
cunning ; of the innocent girl whose life he had 
destroyed. 

" Do you mean to say that you could fling those 
pistols as accurately as all that ? " demanded the 
chief, who was a policeman, first, last, and all the 
time. The case, to him, had ceased to be one of 
human emotions, of sorrow and tragedy ; it was a 
matter of proof, of conviction. Such is the police- 
man's philosophy of fife — and death. 

"Do you want me to prove it ? " taunted the 
murderer. " There's the other pistol for the act on 
the bureau. It ain't loaded. Get it and I'll show 
you." 

" Better take his word," suggested Colton 
warningly. 

" I'll see that he plays no tricks," boasted the 
chief. It was his case now. He got the pistol from 
the bureau. " I'll take one cuff off, and I'll have 
this gun on you every second ! " he snapped. 

The knife-thrower leered at him with his bloodless 
lips, and the slit eyes sh^ne with an exultant gleam. 
He took a stubby pencil from his bath-robe pocket 
and drew a small circle on the blank wall. He 
walked to the other end of the room, the chief 
watching him like a hawk. The pistol dangled from 
the man's hand as he turned. A snap of the arm, 
and it became a flying whirl of blue. The muzzle 
struck the exact centre of the small circle, the 
hammer snapped down, and for an instant the gun 
seemed suspended against the wall before it jangled 
to the floor. 

" God ! That's what I saw last night ! " choked 
Rogers. 

The knife-thrower picked up the pistol. " It's 
just as easy to make the butt strike first, with the 



TEE FLYING DEATH 



165 



muzzle pointed at me, as it should have pointed at 
Cartwright's back last night." 

The commissioner watched every move as he 
walked to the end of the room. 

Suddenly Colton's voice rang out : 

" DonH let him throw that pistol ! " 

The chief jumped from his chair as the red arm 
swung. 

A fine of fire leaped from the blank wall toward 
the scarlet-robed figure across the room. The 
explosion echoed and re-echoed in the room. The 
pistol clattered on the bare boards under the small 
circle it had struck so unerringly. On the butt 
were flakes of the white plaster where it had been 
driven into the wall. The red robe seemed slowly 
to crumple as the knife-thrower sank to the floor ; 
and as they ran to where he lay, the lips twisted 
in an evil leer of triumph, the slit eyes gleamed their 
gloating. 

" I told you I'd never swing for it ! " he sneered 
up at them. " Palming that cartridge was easy. 
I used to be a magician — when my name was — 
Kelly ! " 

V. 

" Yes, Sydney, he paid the price the State puts 
on murder, and I guess it is just as well." A 
fleeting smile crossed Colton's thin Hps for an 
instant. " But the chief is naturally angry that 
such a spectacular murderer should escape his 
clutches so easily. My keen ears caught the click 
of the breech as he put in the cartridge. But I was 
too late ; he had waited until the last second." 

The two men were in the library of the old- 
fashioned house, where the blind man had come 
to spend his regular afternoon four hours in dark- 
ness that meant insurance against the splitting 



166 



THE FOURTH PROBLEM 



headaches too-long-continued light on his sensitive, 
sightless eyes always caused. The knife-thrower 
had lived but a few minutes, for his skill had not 
failed him, and the bullet had pierced one of his 
lungs. Rogers had gone to arrange for the funerals 
of Cartwright and the daughter he had loved. 
They were to be side by side in death, and the story 
would go to their graves. On that the men had 
agreed in the big bare room where the last act of 
the tragedy had been played. 

" How did you ever connect the knife-thrower 
with the murders ? " asked Sydney finally. 

" Your story of the shooting in the box, as you 
told it to me while we were waiting for the panic 
to cease in the theatre, gave me the first clue," 
explained the blind man thoughtfully. " The fact 
that you saw the face of Nelson so plainly told me 
that the flash must have crossed his body, and, in 
groping his way in the darkness, his right hand must 
have been on the hangings. Shrimp's enthusiastic 
description of the knife-thrower's act told me how 
wonderful it was, and — he was the possibility. 

" Then the murder of Cartwright was the proof 
needed. There could be no explanation but that of 
a thrown pistol for the thing Rogers saw. And the 
two pistols being identical was the last link. But 
no one would believe the theory without irrefutable 
proof. That I got, first by the nicked-up butts of 
the guns, showing how long they had been used in 
practice. Then Rogers's story of Cartwright told me 
the guilty person. But then came the necessity of 
explaining where he had been all the years. I sent 
Shrimp to the stage-entrance to get the knife- 
thrower's address and locate him. He did, and, 
being a boy, he aroused not the slightest suspicion 
when he made an inquiry at the house. I knew also 
that at least one of the two employees of the raths- 



THE FLYING DEATH 



167 



keller must have known another man had been on 
hand when the murder was committed. I had to go 
there to see why they had withheld the information 
from the police. The explanation was logical 
enough, but the police would never have seen it. 
Then I had to go to the theatre and find the place 
where the butt of the gun had struck on the wall. 
The finding was more of a job than I thought. In 
his excitement the boy must have moved the 
hangings a foot, for the scar in the velvet was a foot 
lower than I should have found it. And you must 
remember that it was a scar that no eye could have 
seen, one that could only be found with a micro- 
scope, or supersensitive finger-tips like mine. Then 
came the message from Shrimp, whom I had told to 
call me up either at the rathskeller or the theatre." 

Silence came in the darkened room. When 
Thornley Colton spoke again his voice was low, 
solemn, its tone one of reverent wonder. " The 
death of that girl is one of the higher mysteries, 
Sydney. Was she murdered because of a terrible 
mistake, or did a merciful Providence send a thought- 
less, foolish boy to grope in the darkness at just 
the right instant to deflect that pistol, and send the 
bullet into her back % She died in the happiest 
moment of her life ; joy was in her heart and on her 
Hps. If the pistol had not been turned by the 
moving velvet, Cartwright would have died. Her 
whole story would have had to come out then ; 
she would have heard it bandied by unclean Hps 
on the street-corners ; to know that her father, the 
father who did not even recognize her, was a 
murderer. A merciful Providence ? I'll always 
wonder, Sydney." 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 
I. 

Outside was the hurry and bustle of the busy 
avenue ; inside was the quietness and calm that 
characterised the house of Osmuhn & Son, jewellers 
and dealers in articles of vertu. The Heppelwhite 
chairs were carefully placed before each velvet 
square on the crystal cases that extended the length 
of the shop on both sides. In rows of expert array 
on the shelves and in the cabinets on the velvet- 
carpeted floor were rich European and Oriental 
porcelains : Faience and cloisonne ; rare pieces of 
Limoges, Satsuma, Arita, and Ninsei ; lacquer ware 
of Kajikawa, Ritsuo, and Korin. The salesmen, 
soft-footed, soft-voiced, appeared merely indolent to 
the casual observer, but to one who could look 
beneath the surface of things, they gave the impres- 
sion of being alertly on guard against a hidden 
something. 

A limousine stopped before the door. The woman 
who alighted was beautiful ; the girl who followed 
her was wonderful — the type that makes men putty 
and women envious. The uniformed attendant 
opened the door, they stepped inside. If those two 
women had crossed the threshold of any other shop 
on the avenue, there would have been a noticeabla 
flurry of excitement instantly. But not a clerk in 



TEE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 169 



the shop showed more than courteous readiness. 
Osmuhn's customers were all of the same type : the 
richest, the most cultured, the most exclusive 
persons in New York. A diamond ceased to be 
merely a diamond when it had been sold by Osmuhn. 
It became a gem with the reputation of the seller 
behind it ; a flawless, matchless carbon. So it was 
with anything else one bought from Osmuhn & Son. 

But if the clerks showed no particular interest, 
the same could not be said of the light-haired, blue- 
eyed young man who had been talking with two 
others at the end of a long glass case. A smile of 
welcome came to his lips as he hurried forward, 
hand outstretched. 

" Mrs. Marie ! " he exclaimed. " And Helen ! " 

His two hands met theirs in more than friendly 
clasp ; the left to the woman, the right to the girl. 
Only one man in the shop could not see the light 
in the man's eyes as he looked at the girl ; but that 
one had recognised love in the man's voice. 

" You knew I'd be here, didn't you, Mr. Osmuhn?" 
laughed the woman rippingly. 

" The ruby." It was not a question, just a smiling 
statement. 

" Could mother ever resist a wonderful jewel ? ** 
put in the girl. 

" It hasn't been taken out of the private safe since 
you saw it before, three months ago," said the younger 
Osmuhn. " Five -hundred -thousand -dollar rubies 
aren't the playthings of the average gem-buyer." 

" Respect my weakness, please," pouted the 
woman in mock pleading ; then her eyes saw for the 
first time one of the men young Osmuhn had just 
left, and they lighted with pleasure. 

" I must speak to Mr. Colton," she said, and she 
hurried to where he was standing. The girl and the 
man followed slowly, talking in earnest undertones. 



170 



TEE FIFTH PROBLEM 



Thornley Colton's pale face lighted with pleasure 
as he took her hand, and his thin, expressive lips 
smiled their glad welcome. Only the eyes behind 
the great, round lenses of the smoked, tortoise- 
rimmed library glasses did not change. His slim 
stick, apparently of ebony, hung lightly from the 
tapering fingers of his left hand, as did the hat 
which a moment before had covered the snow-white 
hair that curled from the pink scalp. 

" Now tell me where you've been keeping your- 
self ! " the woman demanded severely. " No 
evasion ! We haven't seen you since that wonderful 
thing you did for the Jimmy Raeltons. It was 
wonderful ! " she added earnestly. 

" Thank you," Colton said simply. There was 
no mock modesty ; only quiet sincerity in his rich 
deep voice. 

" But you didn't answer my questions," she smiled. 
She turned to the apple-cheeked, black-haired man 
who had stood silent. " Can you answer them for 
him, Mr. Thames i " 

The black-haired man started nervously as she 
spoke, for he had been paying attention only to the 
beautiful girl with Osmuhn. Mrs. Marie repeated 
the question before he had time to stammer the 
apology she saw trembling on his lips. 

" I am merely Mr. Colton's secretary." He said 
it a trifle stiffly, and she understood that his hyper- 
sensitive nature resented her intuitive understand- 
ing. 

" I don't like gaiety," put in Colton quickly. " A 
quiet chat is my greatest pleasure. Crowds confuse 
me, and make my eyes nervous." He laid his hand 
fondly on the other man's shoulder, and to her eyes 
came womanly sympathy. She knew what Thornley 
Colton meant. He was blind, and the red-cheeked 
man beside him furnished the only eyes he knew. 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 171 



" But you'll come to my reception to-morrow 
night ? " she asked earnestly. " Only for a few 
minutes, but do come." 

" I had intended to," he smiled. 

" That's settled," she nodded. " Now," she added, 
with mock pleading in her voice, " who is to be the 
happy recipient of your favour this time % " One 
gloved hand made a small gesture toward the trays 
of jewels under the glass. The blind man, whose 
years of practice had made him reader of every 
inflection, understood instantly, but young Osmuhn 
came up in time to answer. 

" Mr. Colton has kindly consented to investigate 
a small matter for us," he said nervously. 

' ' The necklace robbery you were telling me 
about ? " asked the girl, eyes shining. 

" Here comes father." Young Osmuhn's face was 
red, his tone guilty. 

Mrs. Marie repressed a smile with difficulty. She 
had never heard a whisper of a necklace robbery 
in the house of Osmuhn & Son. She understood 
how carefully the secret must have been guarded, 
and she understood also the lack of caution that 
was part of youth and love. But she was a wonder- 
fully bright woman, and apparently she had not 
even heard her daughter's remark. All her attention 
was on the stout little man with the shiny bald head 
and the bright eyes that gleamed from under bushy 
brows. 

" A great pleasure, Mrs. Marie," said the elder 
Osmuhn, as he bowed gravely. " You have come 
to see the Thousand Facets of Fire." 

" To buy it, I think," she smiled, extending her 
hand. 

" Ah," murmured the gem-dealer, in a tone of 
quiet satisfaction. " I will show it to you at once. 
It is in the vault." Then a troubled light came to 



172 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



his eyes, as they rested on Thornley Col ton and 
Sydney Thames. Some subtle fifth sense seemed to 
tell the blind man the cause instantly. 

" Sydney and I will wait in your office, if you 
don't mind/' he put in quiclsiy. 

Osmuhn's voice showed his relief. Experience 
had taught him that there was much more apprecia- 
tion when the customer was alone. " My son will 
tell you everything," he said. He looked around 
to where the other member of the firm had been 
standing a moment before ; then shrugged his 
shoulders in parental helplessness. Osmuhn, junior, 
was leading Miss Helen Marie toward the rear of 
the shop. 

Mrs. Marie laughed. " You would have done the 
same thing at his age," she accused. 

The jeweller shook his head. " I suppose so." 
Then, to the blind man : "A minute only, Mr. 
Colton," he apologised. 

" Make it ten," smiled Colton. " Your son told 
me practically everything, and I'd like to have ten 
minutes or so to think over the facts." 

Osmuhn turned toward the small, glass-enclosed 
office at the rear of the shop, from which he could 
see everything that went on. The blind man fol- 
lowed unhesitatingly, superkeen ears noting each 
footfall of the man who preceded him. 

" Only a minute," repeated the seller of jewels 
again, when the two men had been made comfortable 
in the two big chairs by the desk. " Come, Mrs. 
Marie." He seemed to take an unnecessary step or 
two as he said it, and only the blind man heard the 
click of some secret electric connection releasing the 
steel door that Osmuhn opened a minute later by a 
curious pressure of his fingers on the knob, and a 
peculiar-looking key. 

Mrs. Cornelius Marie, probably the richest woman 



TEE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 173 



in New York, lover of jewels because they were 
jewels, and not merely as ornaments, owner of what 
was reputed to be the finest collection of rare gems, 
entered the innermost citadel of the house of 
Osmuhn. The steel door shut softly behind her, 
and she knew that she was as far removed from the 
world outside as though she were a thousand feet 
underground- She knew that the tapestry-covered 
walls of the twelve-foot room were of eighteen-inch 
concrete, interlaced with steel rails ; that the 
Winton-carpeted floor and the panelled ceiling were 
the same. The steel door behind her was the only 
opening in the walls of man-made stone. 

She needed no direction to take a seat at the small 
Sheraton table against the wall at the far side of the 
vault. She had been there before ; each time when 
Osmuhn had picked up some rare and costly jewel. 
The jeweller, with a soft-voiced apology, leaned over 
her shoulder to press the pearl-centred black button 
in the brass wall-plate a foot from the woman's 
elbow. The table light shed its brilliance on the 
white velvet table-pad. 

" The Thousand Facets of Fire is the most 
wonderful ruby I have ever seen or handled," 
declared Osmuhn enthusiastically, as he stepped 
behind her to twirl the two combination knobs on 
the door of the steel safe that was imbedded in the 
concrete wall. " Mr. Norvel heard of it when he 
was in Europe last year. He negotiated for months, 
and sent it to me just ten days before his horrible 
accident in France." 

" The accident left him a hopeless cripple, did it 
not ? " she asked politely, turning in her chair so 
that she could see the deft fingers at work with the 
combination. 

" Yes." Osmuhn's voice was sad. " He must 
walk with canes always." Then a note of pride cam© 



174 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



to his voice. " But he refuses to give up. He is 
here every day, and I need him. In the twenty- 
eight years he has been with me he has learned 
everything I know about stones, and to-day he is 
probably the greatest living expert on diamonds.' ' 

The round safe-door swung open, and, with a 
wholly unconscious nourish, he placed the big jewel- 
case before her and snapped back the lid. 

A thousand blood-red flashes of living fire seemed 
to leap upward, battling with their myriad sword 
points against the soft glow of the electric — then the 
whole room seemed lighted only by the wonderful 
ruby in its velvet case. 

As great music hypnotises, intoxicates to sense- 
numbing silence, so the refraction of the ruby's 
million rays held the woman spellbound. She could 
not speak, nor move ; her eyes were held by the 
lights that danced and flashed from the thousand 
facets — now invitingly, now mockingly, but always 
sure of their victory. 

Osmuhn's eyes, under their bushy brows, gleamed 
brighter — they understood. At his first sight of the 
jewel he, too, had known why men had risked their 
lives and why women had bartered their souls and 
bodies for the Thousand Facets of Fire. 

" Is it not well named ? " he asked. 

His words seemed to break the spell that bound 
her. She nodded as one in a dream, and put forth 
her fingers almost timidly to touch the flashing stone. 

" Take it in your hand, feel the weight of it." 
He turned away, walked the length of the room. 
When he came back she was holding the ruby on 
her palm. The velvet box had been thrust aside, 
and in her eyes was almost childish wonder that a 
thing so full of fire could be so cold. 

With a quiet nod of satisfaction Osmuhn turned 
away again — it was no time for words. Mrs. Marie 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 175 



would want to speak in a moment ; until then 

He went behind her, and bent down to the safe, his 
hands idly rearranging the small boxes that held 
the most valuable jewels in his possession ; jewels 
that were never allowed to go from the specially- 
constructed safe in the specially-constructed room, 
unless his hands removed them. 

The woman still gazed at the jewel. A wavering 
streamer of mist seemed to hover over it for an 
instant — or was it a picture the jewel had conjured 
in her brain ? As she watched, immovable, it spread 
over her hand, then over the whole table — an 
impenetrable veil of filmy nothing. She lifted her 
unoccupied hand to brush her eyes. 

A gasping noise came from her throat. The man 
behind her seemed to sense something wrong in the 
very sound. He wheeled, the hand that had been on 
the safe-door clanged it shut. 

" It's gone ! " she choked. " Gone ! " 

The mist had vanished as it had come. The hand 
that never moved ; the hand that had held the ruby 
was empty ! 

II. 

As the steel door closed behind Osmuhn and Mrs. 
Marie, Thornley Colton leaned back in his chair 
and thoughtfully puffed a cigarette. But Sydney 
Thames, the secretary the blind man had picked 
up twenty-five years before as a bundle of baby- 
clothes on the bank of the English river that had 
given him his name, could not remain silent. The 
story young Osmuhn had been telling them when 
the Maries had interrupted was not one calculated 
to keep the ever-doubting Sydney still. 

' ' What do you think of that necklace disappear- 
ance Osmuhn asked you to investigate ? " he 
demanded. 



176 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



" One of the most interesting problems I've been 
called to solve in a long time," answered Colton. A 
smile of joy curved the thin lips, for a problem, to the 
blind man who solved crime-puzzles as his recreation, 
was the greatest pleasure he knew. 

" But the thing is utterly impossible ! " protested 
Sydney. " Such a thing couldn't have happened in 
broad daylight and in New York." 

" As I've told you once or twice before, Sydney, 
the fact remains that it did happen. And there must 
be some explanation." 

Sydney shook his head. " The statement that a 
man in full possession of his senses could stare 
blankly at a two-hundred-thousand-dollar diamond 
necklace while it disappeared into a thin mist before 
his very eyes is a trifle too strong for me," he averred 
stoutly. 

" Do you think young Osmuhn is lying ? " smiled 
Colton. 

" He seems to be absolutely straight," hesitated 

Sydney. ' ' But his story " The rest was 

obvious. 

The smile on the blind man's face broadened. 
" But consider his frankness in telling of it, Sydney. 
If he'd been lying I imagine he'd have concocted a 
better story than that. Consider how every detail 
of the disappearance is firmly impressed in his mind. 
The robbery, for that's what it was, occurred after 
closing hours, when all the clerks and other em- 
ployees had gone. Only the younger Osmuhn and 
the diamond-expert for the firm were on the premises. 
Norvel, the expert, seeing young Osmuhn behind 
the long case in the shop, wanted to show him the 
completed diamond necklace that was to be delivered 
at the Nevin home next day. He laid it before 
Osmuhn, and together they examined it for possible 
flaws. Norvel placed his cane on the case while he 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 177 



took a cigarette from his pocket. Finding he had 
no matches, he limped with the aid of his other cane 
to his overcoat, which he had thrown over the back 
of a chair five feet or so away. A gasp from Osmuhn 
caused him to turn, with the overcoat still on his 
arm. He saw the other man staring wildly at the 
place where, a few minutes before, the diamond 
necklace had been. Osmuhn swears that, while 
Norvel was walking toward his overcoat, a thick 
mist, which he describes as not unlike steam, ap- 
peared over the necklace, completely hiding it from 
his eyes. He confesses that the thing was so remark- 
able that for an instant he could do nothing but stare. 
Then the mist began to dissolve, and he saw that the 
necklace had vanished utterly. His gasp caused 
Norvel to turn. Norvel hadn't seen the mist, for it 
had entirely disappeared when he had hobbled back 
to the case. Together they searched for the missing 
diamonds without finding a trace. Also, without 
leaving one another's sight for an instant, they 
telephoned to the elder Osmuhn, and sat watching 
one another for their mutual protection, until he 
and a private detective came. They submitted to 
a thorough search, and took part in the all-night 
hunt for the jewels that covered every part of the 
store and building. Why, the very impossibility of 
the story stamps it with truth ! " 

" But Norvel was there," reminded Sydney. 

" He had no possible chance of touching the 
necklace. He had turned away, and his back was 
toward Osmuhn." 

" But the mist ? " persisted Sydney. " That is 
the impossible part of the whole thing. How, in 
Heaven's name, could there be a mist such as he 
describes in a New York jewellery shop ? It's 
absurd ! " 

" Not absurd, Sydney," corrected the problemist 

M 



178 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



mildly. " Merely the solution ; the solution of the 
whole thing." 

The smile went from his face, he leaned forward 
with a sudden tenseness of face and body ; the 
delicate nostrils quivered like those of a hound 
scenting a new trail. 

" Something's wrong inside, Sydney ! " His 
sightless eyes were fixed on the closed, soundproof 
door, his head was bent forward expectantly. Then 
he straightened back in his chair, and was quietly 
puffing his cigarette when the door opened, and the 
elder Osmuhn, white-faced, trembling, staggered out 
of the vault-room. 

"It's gone ! " He choked the words just as the 
woman had choked them a few minutes before. 
" The Thousand Facets of Fire has vanished ! " 

The blind man had risen at the first word, and 
before the gem-dealer had finished speaking he had 
brushed past him, the thin, hollow stick that gave 
its messages to the hypersensitive finger-tips locating 
the steps unerringly. 

The sobbing, hysterical woman at the small table 
did not even look up as he laid his hand gently on 
her shoulder, but he felt her body shudder under the 
touch, as though her overwrought mind had already 
pictured visions of the police. 

" Tell me how it happened, Mrs. Marie." The 
words were soft-spoken, kindly. 

" There is nothing to tell," she sobbed. " The 
ruby just — went." 

" Dissolved into mist ? " 

She looked up, sudden, wild hope showing behind 
the tears in her eyes. " Would you believe that ? " 
she asked breathlessly. " It seems so — impossible 
— I was afraid ." 

" I know that is how it disappeared," Thornley 
Co] ton said quietly. " Mr. Osmuhn will tell you that 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 179 



a diamond necklace vanished in the same way 
nearly ten days ago." 

The white-faced jeweller brushed his sweat- 
beaded forehead with a shaking hand. " Yes," he 
groaned, " that, and this ruby, will bring the loss 
to nearly three-quarters of a million. But it couldn't 
have happened ! " he declared, almost fiercely. 
" Mrs. Marie was holding it in her hand ! I wasn't 
two feet away. The walls are solid concrete ! There 
isn't a crack in them ! " Each staccato sentence 
was jerked out almost passionately. Osmuhn 
seemed to be trying to convince himself, as well as 
his hearers, that the thing he knew had happened 
was utterly impossible. 

Colton paid no attention. He spoke to the 
woman, still quietly, gently, smoothing his questions 
so that they became merely statements for which 
he wanted confirmation. 

" You knew the ruby was gone, even before your 
eyes saw the empty hand ? " 

Osmuhn and Sydney Thames came closer to the 
little table. 

" Yes." She spoke more calmly. " I raised my 
other hand to brush my eyes — I thought it was an 
optical illusion of some kind — then I felt the stone — - 

go." 

" How ? " 

" I don't know," she faltered, looking from one 
to the other in bewilderment. " I could see nothing 
but the thick mist that seemed to cover the whole 
table. Then — I suddenly felt my outstretched hand 
relieved of the weight. It — seemed to just fly 
away ! " 

1 ' A ruby weighing nearly two hundred carats 
would make a very good flyer," observed the blind 
man smilingly. Then : ' ' But the mist, wasn't it a 
trick of the lights \ " 



180 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



She shook her head. " Mist is the only word 
that describes it. When my eyes first noticed it, 
it was a ribbon that widened almost instantly to 
hide the whole table, though the light shone above 
it perfectly. I know that last unconsciously, for I 
think the jewel had hypnotised me— I couldn't take 
my eyes away, even when the mist hid it from sight.' ' 

" Where is the switch for the table-light ? Snap 
it off, Mr. Osmuhn." 

The jeweller leaned across the table to obey. 
Colton examined every inch of the table-light with 
his fingers. 

" Absolutely nothing there," he murmured. Then 
his fingers felt the two buttons in the brass plate 
that he had made the jeweller locate for him. He 
snapped the fight on again, then off, and back. 

" It wasn't a trick of the light," he declared 
emphatically. " Nor of your eyes, Mrs. Marie." 
He stood erect. " Tell your son to come here, Mr. 
Osmuhn," he said quietly. 

The white-faced jeweller almost tottered from the 
small room. The instant that Osmuhn's footsteps 
told the blind man that he had gone through the 
door, Thornley Colton spoke. 

" Mrs. Marie." His voice was crisp, imperative. 
" At the instant you first saw the mist, was it as 
wide as a ribbon % " 

She answered steadily enough, despite the sudden 
change in the blind man's tone : " Yes, it seemed 
to stretch over the table lengthways, waving slightly, 
as a ribbon would do in a breath of air, but almost 
instantly it widened and widened, until it covered 
the whole table." There was only a slight tremor 
in her voice, but in her eyes was awe, as she spoke 
of the inexplicable thing her eyes had seen. 

" Mr. Osmuhn had his back toward you ? " 

" Yes." 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 181 



" How do you know that ? " 

She smiled wanly up at him, forgetting, as people 
usually did when Colton was speaking, that he could 
see nothing. " I don't know it because I saw him," 
she replied, " but I do know it because he always 
turns toward the small safe back of this chair, and 
idly arranges the jewel-cases on the shelves when a 
customer is examining one of the rare gems he keeps 
in this room. He knows the value of silence when a 
lover of jewels is looking at a wonderful stone like 
the Thousand Facets of Fire." 

Colton smiled understandingly ; then wheeled to 
face the door as Osmuhn entered, followed by his 
son. Following them, unnoticed, came Helen 
Marie. She took her place behind her mother with- 
out a word. 

" Father says the ruby has vanished ! " cried 
the younger Osmuhn, and his voice, and eyes, and 
very manner seemed a wild plea for denial. 

Colton merely nodded. " Utterly," he confirmed. 
" Just as the necklace disappeared — into a mist. 
Now tell me, Mr. Osmuhn," he continued quietly, 
" what was the appearance of the mist when you 
first saw it over the necklace on the glass case out- 
side ? " 

" Why, it was just a mist," stammered the son. 
" Just a cloud that spread instantly." 

" You never lifted your eyes from the stones ? " 

" I don't think so — though I may have looked 
up for an instant as Mr. Norvel started toward his 
coat." 

" Cloud — ribbon," murmured the blind man, 
apparently to himself, tapping his trouser-leg with 
his slim stick. 

" That wonderful ruby — gone ! " muttered the 
elder Osmuhn, sinking, almost inertly, into a chair 
at the other side of the small table. 



182 



TEE FIFTH PROBLEM 



" My God ! " They all turned, as the cry burst 
from the man who had entered the vault-room un- 
noticed. The new comer was a cripple who hobbled 
along with the aid of two heavy black canes. But 
it was the lean, intelligent face, with the coal-black 
eyes and the thin nose, that held Sydney's gaze. 
Mentality was stamped in every deep-graven line, 
but now there seemed a pitiful helplessness in the 
tremulous lips of the man as he advanced toward 
them. 

" Mr. Norvel ? " Colton stepped to meet the man 
with outstretched hand. Then he answered the 
surprised looks some inner consciousness told him 
was on the faces of the other persons in the room : 
" Mr. Osmuhn told me of you when we were talking 
outside, and the tap of your canes as you entered 
was all the identification I needed." 

" Yes, I am Mr. Norvel." The words came almost 
gaspingly, and Colton felt the man's hand tremble 
in his. " I was in my office when I saw Mr. Osmuhn 
speak to Henry. I knew there was something wrong 
with the Thousand Facets of Fire, and 

He gasped chokingly, and staggered. Osmuhn 
jumped from his chair with a cry of concern, the 
sight of the man before him momentarily driving 
from his mind even the loss of the great ruby. 
" Sit down, Philip," he commanded, leading the 
crippled man to a chair. 

" These things — are taking the life out of me," 
gasped the diamond expert of the firm. " The neck- 
lace — then this ! " 

" Mr. Norvel is on the verge of collapse," 
whispered young Osmuhn. " He has had valvular 
heart trouble for years. The loss of the diamond 
necklace he had worked on upset him terribly — 
and he worked for months to get the Thousand 
Facets of Fire." 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 183 

Colton nodded sympathetically. " He should take 
a long rest," murmured the blind man. 

Norvel heard him. " I'll get it soon," he said 
helplessly, " in the grave." 

" You have years before you yet," smiled Colton 
encouragingly. " Disappearances like these are 
calculated to frazzle the best of nerves." Then, in 
the same gentle tone he had used in questioning Mrs. 
Marie, he went on : " Mr. Osmuhn told me of the 
terrible auto accident you had in France last summer, 
Mr. Norvel. Your driver and the occupant of the 
other car were killed, weren't they ? " 

" Yes," the cripple shuddered. " And it made 
an old man of me, that and my rotten heart." 

Again Thornley Colton nodded sympathetically. 
" You hovered between life and death for several 
months, I understand ? " 

" Practicallv dead," Norvel answered. 

" Urn ! " the blind man rolled the thin stick 
between his slender fingers, and puzzled lines ap- 
peared on his forehead. 

" What is the object of those questions ? " de- 
manded the elder Osmuhn, and he could not keep 
the impatience from his voice. 

" A long chance, nothing more," Colton assured 
him quietly. " A chance that Mr. Norvel, in his 
delirium, might have told secrets that gave the 
criminal information necessary to commit these 
robberies." 

The diamond expert half rose from his chair, his 
hands clutching his heavy canes. " That may be 
true — I may be responsible ! " 

" Ridiculous ! " snapped Osmuhn, and he made no 
attempt to keep the impatience from his tone now. 

" We can't afford to overlook even the remotest 
possibility in a case like this," said Thornley Colton 
evenly, 



184 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



Norvel lowered the hand that had been clutching 
at his heart. " Why don't you search ? " he cried. 
" The stone couldn't have gotten out of the room ! 
The walls are of solid concrete, impregnable. The 
ruby must be here ! " 

The elder Osmuhn looked around nervously, eyes 
travelling from one face to the other, seeking vainly 
for some way out. Mrs. Marie rose and slipped her 
arm around the waist of her daughter. 

" I will submit to a search," she said quietly. 

" Thank you ! Thank you ! " Osmuhn fairly 
choked his relief. " I will get Miss ." 

" Do you want to search Sydney and me ? " 
asked Thornley Colton, with a half smile on his 
expressive lips. 

" I don't think it is necessary ; you weren't ." 

Osmuhn stopped, understanding that he had practi- 
cally admitted that Mrs. Marie was the only one on 
whom suspicion rested. His son opened his mouth 
to protest, but the woman forestalled him. 

" I understand," she said steadily. 

" Then we will go ; it is long past my lunch-hour." 
The blind man's fingers touched the crystalless 
watch in his pocket. 

" Don't you want to know the result of the 
search ? " Osmuhn asked blankly. 

" I know it now," said the blind man, with that 
same curious smile on his lips. " Good-bye, Mr. 
Osmuhn." He shook hands heartily with the jewel- 
ler, and held the woman's hand in his for an instant. 

" I shall be at your reception to-morrow night," 
he reminded, and she murmured a steady-voiced 
" Thank you." 

The blind man touched the fingers of the daughter, 
clasped the palm of the younger Osmuhn and that 
of Norvel, and hurried out, leaving them staring 
after him. 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 185 



It was not until he and Sydney were in the big 
car on their way to the old-fashioned up-town house 
and luncheon that Thornley Col ton spoke. 

" One of the most remarkable crimes I've ever had 
the good fortune to work on, Sydney. And a re- 
markable thief — a criminal with an imagination." 

" But how did they vanish ; where did the ruby 
and the necklace go ? " asked Sydney Thames 
helplessly. 

" Regarding the first part of your double-barrelled 
question : Is it possible, after all you have heard, 
that you don't know how they vanish ? " The smile 
on the thin lips was inscrutable. " Where they go, 
Sydney, is not half so important as where they are. 
That's where the work comes in. I am sure that I 
know where the Thousand Facets of Fire is, but I 
don't know where the necklace is. I never half 
complete a case. By waiting I can get both the 
necklace and the ruby. By jumping recklessly I 
can arrest the criminal and recover the ruby ; but 
I'm not a detective, Sydney ; problems are merely 
my recreation. So I'll recover both." 

" The ruby 1 " exclaimed Sydney. " You know 
where that is ? " 

" Certainly," nodded Colton, snapping his smoked 
cigarette into the street. " The thief has been safe 
because he has worked against men who have 
imaginations that are handicapped by eyes. My 
imagination is unhampered. As I told Osmuhn, the 
search will reveal nothing, despite the fact that the 
ruby is just about three feet from the place where it 
disappeared ! " 

III. 

The red-haired boy with the slightly twisted nose 
who had become a member of the Colton household 
as the only fee to a particularly baffling murder 



186 



TEE FIFTH PROBLEM 



case, shifted from one foot to the other in an ecstasy 
of joy, listening intently and eagerly as the blind 
man talked. When Thornley Colton had finished, 
he could contain himself no longer. 

" Gee ! I'm gettin' to be a reg'ler detective. Yuh 
reelly want me to trail him ? " He asked the last 
anxiously, fearful lest he had heard wrong. 

" Yes," smiled the problemist. " Shadow him." 

" B'lieve me, Mr. Colton." The boy's eyes were 
round and serious. " If I locate that nigger, I'll 
show him Nick Carter ain't got nothin' on me. An' 
I'll find him, too ! " he boasted. 

" There's a Hindu somewhere around," nodded 
Colton. " He doesn't amount to much, except as 
a trail to the real criminal, but I expect him to do a 
certain thing, and I want to make sure of it. That's 
all." 

" I'll get him," chirped the boy, and, pulling his 
cap down over his ears, he darted from the room. 

Colton snapped out the light and sat puffing his 
cigarette in the darkness. For half an hour he did 
not move, except to fight a new cigarette. Sydney 
Thames entered with a slip of paper in his hand, 
and Colton switched on the light again. 

" Three boats leave this week," announced 
Sydney. " The Bordeaux to-morrow, the Trevoila 
Thursday, and the Paris Saturday." 

" I think that last is about it," mused Colton, his 
thin fingers beating a devil's tattoo on the arm of 
his chair. 

" What ? " 

" The date of the thief's departure for Europe." 

" The date of •," gasped Sydney. 

Thornley Colton nodded. " He'll have time for 
that one after he finds out that the next trick he's 
going to play hasn't thrown me off the track. He 
doesn't realise — yet — the possibilities of blindness ; 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 187 

he doesn't understand that the things which deceive 
the ordinary man only make facts clearer to me." 
Colton pushed the desk-button that would summon 
the automobile at any hour of the twenty-four. 
" Let's take in a matinee, Sydney," he said, 
rising. 

That afternoon, and that night, not a word was 
said regarding the remarkable thefts at the shop of 
Osmuhn & Son. Thornley Colton had apparently 
forgotten all about it. Early the next morning he 
answered an anxious query from Osmuhn by saying 
that he was hard at work, and immediately after he 
idled away two hours in his music-room. At ten 
o'clock the telephone rang, and the puzzled Sydney 
heard the following one-sided conversation : — 

" Hello, Shrimp. English valet, eh ? Funny ! 
What ! Invalid who has a Hindu servant that 
wheels him out every afternoon at four o'clock ? 
Hindu went away alone at ten o'clock this morning ? 
Where ? Good ! Good ! That's all now. Go to 
one of your moving-picture shows for the rest of 
the day." 

There was a broad smile on his lips as he hung up 
the receiver. 

" What is it ? " asked Sydney. 

" Just another example of how a clever man will 
accomplish his object in a clever way. Look up 
Irotette's number, will you ? I haven't got it on 
my list." 

" The caterer ? " 

" Yes." When Colton got the connection, and 
gave his name, there was no doubt of his standing 
with New York society's biggest caterer. " I want 
a favour," he said, when the head of the firm was 
at the other end of the wire. " An exceptionally 
intelligent-looking coloured man just applied for a 
night's work at Mrs. Marie's reception to-night. 



188 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



You took him ? I thought you would, for I know 
the difficulty of getting good men for a big affair 
like that. Now for the favour. Can you fix it so 
that his work will allow him the freedom of the 
rooms ? Thanks ! " 

Sydney started to ask a question, but the blind 
man forestalled him. " To-morrow you'll know all 
about it," he promised. 

Sydney realised that Colton would not say a word 
till the time came, and, under protest, he accom- 
panied the problemist to the Marie reception that 
night. Colton apparently enjoyed every minute of 
the time, but Sydney, as usual, was on edge con- 
tinuously, for his fear of pretty women amounted 
almost to an obsession. Even the wonderful person- 
ality of Mrs. Marie, who went from one guest to 
another, as though she had not a care in the world, 
and as though the disappearance of the ruby had 
never occurred, was not able to put him at his ease. 

Promptly at eleven o'clock next morning Colton 
summoned his car. " We're going to make a party 
call on Mrs. Marie," was the way he answered 
Sydney's question. 

" Didn't you get enough last night ? " groaned 
Thames. 

" Quite," nodded the blind man, " but did you 
notice that bright-looking serving man with the coal- 
black eyes % Mrs. Marie pointed him out to me. He 
is the Hindu whom I spoke to Irotette about." 

" Hindu % " ejaculated Sydney. " Why should a 
Hindu be serving ices at a fool reception ? " 

" Because he had a little job to do. I'm going to 
call on Mrs. Marie this morning, and see how he did 
it," replied Colton, as he pulled on his gloves. 

When Mrs. Marie appeared, Sydney Thames had 
hard work to repress a gasp of astonishment. Last 
night she had been happy, cheerful. Now she was 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 189 



haggard, there were circles under her eyes, and her 
hand trembled as she held it out. 

" An unexpected pleasure, Mr. Colton." She tried 
to say it graciously, but her voice shook, and there 
was a piteous look in her eyes. 

Thornley Colton spoke quietly, evenly. " The 
ruby, please." The words struck the astounded 
Sydney like a pistol-shot. 

The woman choked a sob in her throat, and 
swayed slightly. Thornley Colton led her gently to 
a chair. 

" I didn't take it ! " she cried brokenly. " I 
didn't ! I'm not a thief ! I found it in my jewel- 
case last night. I don't know how it got there — 
and Helen saw it, too ! " The last words came in a 
sobbing gasp. 

" Of course you didn't take it ! " declared Colton. 
" You haven't even got it ! " She looked up, 
searching his eyes to find the truth she had prayed 
for during the long hours of the night. 

" You mean it ! You know ! " Her hand was 
on his arm ; pleading, joy unutterable was in her 
voice. 

" I didn't think that you would find it until this 
morning,'' Colton said contritely. " It was placed 
there last night by an accomplice of the real thief. 
I knew it would be. The thief realised that he must 
throw some dust in the eyes of all of us. He failed 
to understand that dust wouldn't affect my eyes. 
The ruby you have is only an imitation, but it would 
have served its purpose. Let me have it." 

" Yes ! Yes ! Take it ! " The hysteria of reaction 
was in her voice ; she held out her left hand, and the 
red stone gleamed as the folds of the covering hand- 
kerchief fell away from it. "I must tell Helen — I 
asked her to call up Mr. Osmuhn." 

" I'm going to see him now," Colton told her, 



190 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



and he hurried out, followed by her tremulous 
thanks. 

The elder Osmuhn seemed on the verge of nervous 
prostration when they arrived at the shop. He 
jumped from the chair in his glass-enclosed office, and 
fairly ran to meet them. 

" I've been trying to get you for fifteen minutes ! " 
he said hoarsely. " Mrs. Marie has the ruby. Henry 
has just gone there. I never thought ." 

" I have seen Mrs. Marie," said Colton sharply. 
" You should know her better than that. The ruby 
she had was a mere imitation. Here it is." 

Osmuhn snatched it eagerly, glanced at it, and 
groaned. " But how did she get this stone ? " he 
demanded. ' ' It is exactly the same weight and cut 
as the Thousand Facets of Fire. She saw the ruby 
three months ago ! " There was suspicion in his 
voice now. " She is the only one in New York who 
did see it ! No one could have made an imitation 
so exactly in the few hours since the original was 
stolen. And her story of the disappearance was so 
impossible ! " Hours of brooding over the loss of 
the stone had apparently done their work. 

" Don't you believe your son's story of the neck- 
lace disappearance ? " asked Colton impatiently. 

" But she has a passion for jewels. The ruby 
must have destroyed ." 

" If she had stolen it, she would have had more 
sense than bring this new suspicion against herself. 
I'll get the thief, also the ruby and necklace. But 
I'll get him in my own way and my own time. You'd 
better wait. Good day ! " 

Leaving the head of the house of Osmuhn & Son 
staring, mouth agape, he left the shop. Thornley 
Colton never had patience with meu who couldn't 
see through a ladder when God had given them 
eyes. 



TEE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 191 

" Telephone-booth, Sydney," the blind man said, 
when they were out of the shop. ' ' I'm going to put 
joy into the heart of Shrimp. Then we'll kill a few 
hours before the next act. This is a show with long 
intermissions." 

The next three hours seemed the longest Sydney 
Thames had ever spent. They went to an up-town 
restaurant, and Colton ate as though there was not 
another thing worth thinking about in the world. 
Sydney was a flutter of impatience. He couldn't 
enjoy his food ; the music of the orchestra grated 
on his nerves ; the waiter angered him by his con- 
tinued hovering. But Sydney knew the futility of 
questioning the blind man. He knew that each 
apparently irrelevant thing the blind man had done 
would lead logically to the finish of the case. But 
what was the finish % Who was the thief % Where 
were the jewels that Thornley Colton expected to 
get by waiting ? 

At last the crystalless watch told the blind man 
that the time had come. " We'll take a little walk 
along Ninety-first Street," he said. " I expect to 
meet a white-haired invalid in a wheel-chair, with a 
Hindu servant. Watch for him." 

They reached Ninety-first Street, and strolled 
along casually ; two idlers out for an afternoon 
walk. Suddenly Sydney saw the invalid. 

" A man in a wheel-chair was just brought out of 
that brownstone house a block up the street. The 
man wheeling him is coloured." 

" Don't notice him," warned Colton. 

They walked slowly toward the on-coming wheel- 
chair. Sydney tried his best to appear as calm as 
the blind man, but he could feel his heart pounding 
in his chest. What was going to happen ? The 
street, for a block, was deserted, save for them, the 
two others, and a ragged street gamin, who ^as 



192 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



speeding along the smooth pavement on roller 
skates. 

Sydney could see the man in the chair plainly 
now. His long, white hair almost touched his 
shoulders, the white beard swept his breast, and 
came up almost to his eyes. His legs were wrapped 
tight in a red blanket, and a shawl was thrown 
over his shoulders. 

Only five feet separated them. As they stepped 
out to let the chair go past, the gamin, with a wild 
whoop, came speeding up in back of the chair, head 
down. He skated straight at the Hindu servant 
struck him, and bowled him over. With a shriek 
of joy he continued on his way after staggering 
Sydney Thames as he brushed past him. 

Colton leaped forward with a cry of mingled anger 
and sympathy. His hand on the round iron handle 
of the chair kept it from going over, and he grasped 
one of the big knobs at the handle-ends to steady 
himself as he helped the muttering servant to his 
feet. 

" Little devil ! " snapped the invalid, in a high- 
pitched, querulous voice. Then, as Thornley Colton 
stepped in front of him : " Thank you, young man." 

" He should be arrested," declared Colton em- 
phatically. He held out his hand. " I am blind," 
he apologised. " Will you shake the hand of another 
of the afflicted ? My secretary described you to me 
as you came along." 

" Well, you're no worse off than I am," cackled 
the man in the chair. " I see too devilish much 1 
Good day." 

Colton bowed and stood aside. The impassive- 
faced servant pushed the chair down the side-walk. 

" It's a crime the way those gamins carry on," 
muttered Sydney, when they had walked a hundred 
yards or so in silence, 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 193 



Colton chuckled. " I'll have to tell Shrimp how 
good his disguise was," he laughed. 

" Shrimp ! " echoed Sydney in amazement. 

" Certainly." Thornley Colton grinned broadly. 
" He was on hand to give our Hindu friend a bump 
when the proper time came." 

" In Heaven's name why ? " 

" So that I could locate the probable hiding-place 
of the ruby and the necklace when the time came 
for hiding them there. Also, to give me a chance to 
shake the hand of the man who stole them. David- 
son is the invalid's name. Quite a character, isn't 
he ? " 

IV. 

In the darkened music-room Thornley Colton's 
fingers wandered idly over the keys, now improvising, 
now filling the room with the ever-living soul of 
Beethoven, now swinging crashingly into Wagner ; 
then his fingers on the upper treble brought forth 
a strange discord of notes through which ran a weird 
minor melody. The last seemed to please him, for 
he repeated it, until Sydney Thames, who had been 
nervously pacing the room, stopped in his tracks. 

" What the deuce do you call that ? " he de- 
manded, the discords still ringing in his ears. " It's 
horrible ! " 

" Because it doesn't agree with your orthodox 
ideas of music," declared Colton seriously. " That 
is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I know. 
It is a Hindustan adaptation of the * Chinese Flute 
Song * of Siao She. It is a fitting accompaniment 
for this latest case of ours." 

" And just as understandable," observed Sydney, 
walking up and down the room again. Colton turned 
again toward the keys, and Sydney broke out 
impatiently : " Why don't you do something, Thorn? 
N 



194 



TEE FIFTH PROBLEM 



Two whole days have passed since you found the 
man who stole the ruby, and you haven't done a 
thing ! Osmuhn suspects Mrs. Marie, and she is on 
the verge of collapse. You haven't made an attempt 
to clear up the mystery. It isn't right ! Osmuhn is 
rapidly losing his patience ; his son must stand 
helplessly by and see the mother of the girl he loves 
suspected ; and the thing is making a nervous wreck 
of Norvel. It is only a matter of days when he will 
have to leave the business for good." 

" Osmuhn's patience became exhausted last 
night," Thornley Colton said. " He advised me 
that he had lost faith in my efforts, and that he 
was going to call in the police." 

" Great Heaven ! " exclaimed Sydney. " That 
means that they will arrest Mrs. Marie ! " It only 
needed a woman in trouble to put the susceptible 
Sydney Thames at sixes and sevens. 

" I think even the police will hesitate before 
arresting a woman like Mrs. Marie on mere sus- 
picion," the blind man declared. 

The electric bell at the front door sent out its 
announcement. 

" See who it is, will you ? Shrimp is out on a little 
job for me." 

Sydney hurried out, and the problemist's sensitive 
finger-tips felt the face of the crystalless watch in his 
pocket. A frown furrowed his forehead for a 
minute. He went into the library, and was sitting 
at the desk which held the telephone when Sydney 
came back, followed by Henry Osmuhn, junior. 

" They are going to arrest Helen's mother ! " 
burst out Osmuhn the instant he crossed the thres- 
hold. 

Colton's mobile face expressed sympathy. " I 
don't think they will," he assured quietly. 

" But they're going to ! " cried Osmuhn fiercely. 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 195 



" My father put the thing into the hands of the 
police yesterday afternoon. The days of brooding 
over the loss of the Thousand Facets of Fire have 
driven him half crazy. The finding of the imitation 
ruby in Mrs. Marie's possession, and your refusal 
to explain what you are waiting for, have driven 
every bit of commonsense from him. Detectives 
badgered her for two hours last night. She is on the 
verge of hysteria. And Helen — • — •." He paced up 
and down the room like a caged tiger, each word 
tumbling over the other as it came from his lips ; 
his hands clenched and unclenched at his sides. The 
sensitive-nerved Sydney Thames caught the con- 
tagion. 

" It's a crime to let those innocent women suffer, 
while you sit there, calmly smoking a cigarette ! " 
charged the secretary bitterly. He turned away as 
the blind man's lips curved in a smile. " He has 
known the thief for two days ! " he told Osmuhn, 
beside himself at the injustice of the problemist. 

" He knows the thief ! " Osmuhn stopped dead 
in his tracks, staring incredulously at Sydney. Then 
he whirled to face the blind man, who sat quietly 
back in his chair, blowing smoke-rings towards the 
ceiling. " Why don't you have him arrested ? " 
he demanded, voice high with excitement. 

" Because I want to get the jewels," answered 
the blind man. 

" But a search, a confession, will — — ." 

" Do you suppose that a man with the daring 
and cleverness necessary to accomplish those rob- 
beries would either confess or hide the stones where 
they could be found ? " he asked, a trifle impatiently. 
" I'm waiting for the thief to hide the jewels in a 
place where I can find them. That will be when he is 
about to start away. To arrest him before would 
mean an endless search. You must understand that 



196 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



the thief who could commit robberies like those is a 
wonderfully clever man. I know that he is marvel- 
lous, for he is the only man I ever saw whose heart- 
beats failed to show any emotion whatever." 

" Who is the thief ! " asked Osmuhn soberly. All 
the excitement and incredulity had gone from his 
voice now. 

" A man who calls himself Davidson ; an invalid 
who is wheeled around by a Hindu servant for an 
hour or so each afternoon. He is never seen at other 
times. He lives next door to Mr. Norvel, your 
diamond-expert." 

" So that's how he knew ! " cried Osmuhn, eye 
alight with understanding. " Was he in France 
when Mr. Norvel' s accident occurred ? " The 
question Colton had put at the time of the ruby 
robbery flashed back in his mind. 

The blind man nodded. " I am going to see him 
the minute my boy calls me up and tells me that he 
is getting ready to start to the steamer Paris, which 
sails at noon to-day." 

The jangling telephone-bell came as a period to 
the sentence. Colton removed the receiver, listened 
a moment, said a single " All right, Shrimp," and 
rose. " The curtain is up for the last act," he said 
soberly. He pulled open a drawer of the desk and 
took out a wicked-looking blued-steel automatic and 
slipped it into his side coat-pocket. 

" There won't be any need of that ? " Osmuhn 
asked nervously. 

" The man we are going after isn't the kind that 
holds his hands out for the steel bracelets j" replied 
the problemist grimly. 

" But you are blind ! " cried Osmuhn. " You 
can't see ! " 

The blind man's smile was one of amusement as he 
answered : " If I had not been blind, I wouldn't 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 197 



have solved this case, and, if I'm not mistaken in 
my man, my lack of eyes is going to do more toward 
his actual capture than your keen ones. I have an 
idea you'll see another mysterious disappearance — 
of men this time." 

He slipped on his overcoat and led them out of the 
house and into the waiting car, which had stood at 
the curb for the last half-hour. There was not a 
word spoken by the three men until the car turned 
into Ninety-first Street. 

" Hadn't we better stop at the corner and walk ? " 
asked Osmuhn, as the car continued on and swerved 
in toward the curb before the brownstone house. 

Colton flicked his cigarette away and shook his 
head. " I guess Mr. Davidson is expecting us. I've 
had Shrimp working pretty openly in the last day 
or two. I think the thief will want to pull off one 
last grand-stand play before he leaves." 

The red-haired boy who had been leaning against 
a tree at the other side of the street ran over and 
hopped on the run-board. 

" Kin I go in with yuh, Mr. Colton ? " he asked 
eagerly, eyes shining with excitement. 

The blind man shook his head. " No, Shrimp," 
he denied. " You go over and telephone for the 
police. We'll need them in a few minutes." 

The boy's face showed his disappointment, but he 
tried bravely to keep it out of his voice. " All right, 
sir," he said, with an assumed cheeriness that was 
pathetic. 

Sydney opened the tonneau-door, and Colton 
alighted, his slim stick before him locating the way 
up the wide stone steps. His hps were a grim, 
straight line as he pushed the button, and Osmuhn 
saw him put his hand in his pocket to assure himself 
that the automatic was ready for instant use. The 
nerves of the junior Osmuhn were taut, and his 



198 



TEE FIFTH PROBLEM 



muscles tensed as the door swung back and the 
grave-faced Hindu that the disguised Shrimp had 
bowled over two days before stood looking at them 
gravely. 

" What wish the Sahibs ? " His voice was deep 
and rich. He had only muttered when they had 
seen him last. 

" Is Mr. Davidson in ? " asked Colton politely. 
Sydney thought he saw a gleam of fire in the Hindu's 
dark eyes for an instant. 

" Sahib Davidson is busied. He starts for the 
German baths at noon on the boat." 

" It is highly important." The blind man's voice 
was suave. 

From somewhere in the rear of the house came 
the piping, querulous voice of the invalid : " Who 
the devil is it, Pinjur ? " 

" I know not, Sahib," called the Hindu, in 
reply. 

" The blind man who spoke to him two days ago 
when the boy of the street nearly upset his chair," 
enlightened Thornley Colton, and the ears of the 
old man were keen, for they heard. 

" Send him in ! " snapped the squeaky voice. 
" And come in yourself. There's a very devil of a 
draft ! " 

The Hindu stood aside gravely as they entered, 
closed the door carefully behind them, and, with a 
bowed invitation to follow, led the way down the 
hall toward the library. 

Osmuhn's tense muscles relaxed, and a gasp of 
amazement came to his lips as they stepped inside 
the semi-darkened room, and he saw the white- 
haired, white-bearded old man Thornley Colton had 
declared was the thief who had stolen the Thousand 
Facets of Fire and the diamond necklace. Could 
this be the man, who, by some infernal magic, had 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 199 



caused three-quarters of a million dollars' worth of 
jewels to disappear while people watched them ? 

The old man drew himself closer to the desk, with 
his white hands on the wheels of his steel-framed 
chair, and peered at them short-sightedly. 

" What do you want, gentlemen ? " he piped. 
u I haven't but a minute. Have I, Pinjur ? " He 
darted a queer, bird-like glance toward the Indian 
servant, who stood, straight-backed, before the one 
window that broke the lines of high bookshelves 
surrounding the room. The Hindu bowed. 

Colton advanced half a step toward the desk. " We 
want," he said, slowly and distinctly, " the Thousand 
Facets of Fire and the diamond necklace ! " 

The old man's cackling laugh came from the white 
beard even before the last word had been uttered. 
" You want the ruby, eh ? " he squealed, his hand 
falling on the desk before him. " He wants the 
necklace, too, Pinjur." 

Osmuhn's eyes turned toward the Hindu ; he saw 
the Indian lift one hand — then a rising curtain of 
mist seemed to hide him ! Another rose over the desk I 
In an instant the two had joined, and a solid wall of 
fog, dense, impenetrable, hid half of the room. 

" The mist ! " he cried, falling back a step, the 
fear of the supernatural in his eyes. 

He saw Thornley Colton leap forward ; saw him 
swallowed up — vanish utterly. He could not move, 
nor could Sydney Thames beside him. They both 
heard a weird, gurgling cry, an oath in a strange 
language. Then the report of a pistol echoed through 
the room ; the flash showed yellow-pink through the 
mist. 

Thornley Colton's voice rang out : — 
" Fling open the door ! " The words loosed the 
leaden muscles of Sydney Thames. He sprang to 
obey. The current of air seemed to tear the mist 



200 



TEE FIFTH PROBLEM 



to shreds instantly. Osmuhn took a half -step forward 
— stopped. Horror showed on his face for an 
instant ; then amazement. 

On the floor beside the bookcase lay the Hindu. 
The blood from his wound was staining the carpet. 
Beside him was a curious-looking knife, with the 
point stained a dull green. But Thornley Colton 
and the invalid had vanished utterly ! 

The line of bookcases was still unbroken. The 
wheel-chair was where it had been before, but the 
occupant and the blind man were gone ! 

Fascinated, horror-stricken, the two men gazed at 
the empty chair and the silent form of the Indian. 
A soft click sounded like a pistol-shot in the death 
stillness of the room. A section of the case swung 
outward, and Thornley Colton, his overcoat slashed 
from shoulder to waist, stood before them, smiling 
grimly. 

" My God, Thorn ! " gasped Sydney, his strictured 
heart beating once more. 

"Is there any blood on that knife-point, Sydney? " 
asked the blind man quietly. 

Thames picked up the knife to examine it. 

" Careful," warned the problemist. " By the 
way he slashed at me I think there is one of the 
devilish Indian poisons on the point." 

Osmuhn and Sydney looked at the green-stained 
point, the slashed coat of the man who stood before 
them, smiling calmly, as he awaited the verdict of 
life or death. 

" No," choked Sydney. He staggered against the 
wall. " Thank God ! Thank God ! " he prayed, 
eyes on the man who had been the only father he 
had ever known. 

Thornley Colton dismissed his escape with a nod 
and spoke to the white-faced Osmuhn. " I think 
I told you that eyes would be of very little use in the 



TEE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 201 



denouement. I knew the man, and the chances he'd 
take. I expected the fog. The game was to spring 
open the secret door, wheel the man and the chair 
inside, and leave us gaping idiotically. Would you 
like to see the thief ; the cleverest, most daring I 
have ever encountered ? " 

He stepped aside. Dazedly Osmuhn and Sydney 
followed, only to stop at the doorway. 

Manacled on the floor was the thief. Beside him, 
in a little heap, was the white wig and beard. 

The thief was Norvel, the diamond expert ! 

" No," said Thornley Colton, " it isn't Norvel. It 
is the man who has been impersonating him for 
months. The man who lay in a French hospital 
learning every secret of the real Norvel, as he raved 
in delirium following the accident. Where Norvel 
is — — ." He paused significantly. 

" His carcass is feeding fishes in the Seine ! " 
snarled the crippled man. Then he burst into a 
vicious, sneering laugh. " Find the jewels ? " he 
taunted. 

" Easily." Colton went through the door that 
Sydney and Osmuhn now knew connected Norvel's 
house with the one next door. He wrenched off one 
of the knobs at the end of the wheel-chair handle. 
They saw the red flash of the ruby as he held it up 
to the light. 

" The necklace and the dozen other jewels that 
haven't yet been missed are in the hollow handle/* 
he said quietly. 

V. 

It was several hours later. In the ornately 
furnished vault at the shop of Osmuhn & Son were 
the younger Osmuhn and Helen Marie, seated side 
by side in two Heppel white chairs, their hands 
clasped, unashamed. At the small table was Osmuhn, 



202 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



senior ; across from him, where she had been when 
the wonderful ruby disappeared, was Mrs. Marie. 

Young Osmuhn jumped to his feet as footsteps 
sounded outside. 

" Here he comes ! " his voice rang out joyously, 
as Thornley Colton entered, a long, paper- wrapped 
bundle under his arm. 

Osmuhn, senior, came forward and held out his 
hand. " I can never thank you enough," he said 
brokenly. 

" Thank me 1 " smiled the blind man. " The 
thanks are all on my side. It was the most inter- 
esting problem I ever tackled." 

He laid down the long bundle on the small table, 
and took Mrs. Marie's extended hand. She did not say 
a word, but the expression on her face told volumes ; 
and she understood that the man without eyes knew. 

" Now tell us how it was all done," broke in Helen 
Marie eagerly. " Henry has just told us how 
wonderful you were at the house. Tell us how the 
ruby vanished." 

The irrepressible curiosity of the girl brought a 
smile to the blind man's lips. " I'll start right at the 
beginning," he promised. " At the police station 
the false Norvel consented to talk — a little. The 
Hindu is in the hospital. The two of them followed 
the Thousand Facets of Fire all through Europe, 
trying to get their hands on it. The real Norvel 
bought it before they had a chance to steal it, and 
substitute the imitation they had had made. Not 
knowing that he had already sent it to America, they 
were following Norvel when their automobile crashed 
into his on the outskirts of an obscure French village. 
The drivers of both cars were killed. Norvel got a 
knock on the head that resulted in concussion of 
the brain. 

" The thief, who refuses to tell his name, or any- 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIBE 203 



thing of his history, had both hips broken, and was 
made a cripple for life. But he is a wonderful man. 
He had a cot next to Norvel, and for weeks he heard 
Norvel rave of his past life, the ruby, the business — • 
things that are reiterated over and over in the 
raving of delirium. The thief realised what the 
knowledge was worth. The fake news of Norvel's 
death went out. When he had recovered sufficiently 
to leave the hospital, he was murdered, and the thief 
became Norvel. He returned here, a changed man, 
but there was never a chance for suspicion. He 
was a wonderful actor. He knew everything that 
Norvel had known, and he knew jewels even better 
than Norvel himself. 

" His Hindu partner and an Englishman who 
merely played the role of Norvel's valet came with 
him. But the thief was a master. The crude stealing 
made possible by his position didn't appeal to him. 
He wanted excitement, to astound people. So he 
planned to make a million by the cleverest thefts 
ever committed in the world. The Hindu had 
learned secrets from the greatest yogi in India, and 
he was a wonderful worker in gold plate and other 
metals. For weeks he worked and produced these." 
Colton stripped the paper from the long bundle, 
and the two heavy canes Norvel had always carried 
were revealed. 

" What ■," began Osmuhn dazedly. 

Colton took one of the canes and laid it on the 
table. " This is the cane Norvel put on the glass 
case when the diamond necklace disappeared. Let 
me have that one he stole for a minute, will you ? " 

Osmuhn swung open the door of the safe and laid 
it before the blind man. 

" Your son was talking, while Norvel was fingering 
the necklace like this." Colton pretended to 
examine the string of stones with his eyes, placing 



204 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



them in a perfectly straight line with the end of 
the cane, not four inches from its feruled bottom. 
" Watch ! " he commanded. " Don't take your eyes 
from the stones ! " He turned away ; not one of 
them saw the delicate pull he gave to the black 
thread that was attached to an almost invisible knob 
at the cane handle. But they did see the feruled 
bottom spring open. They saw a small claw dart 
out, swift as the fang of a snake, catch the first stone 
of the necklace, and in a fraction of an instant the 
necklace had been drawn into the hollow cane like 
a snake in its hole — swiftly, silently. The cap closed 
at the bottom, the cane was merely a cane once more. 

He showed them the thread, like the one Norvel 
had pulled when he started toward his overcoat. 

" But the mist I saw ? " demanded Osmuhn, 
junior. " What was that % " 

" That is the most wonderful thing the Hindu 
yogi have in their bag of tricks. I was present at a 
private exhibition of it twenty years ago in the hill 
country of India. The men who were with me said 
that they saw a man disappear in a cloud of mist, 
just as you saw it attempted to-day. Twenty years 
ago it was one of the most profound mysteries of 
India. To-day it isn't." 

" Isn't ? " echoed Osmuhn. 

"No. The trick is done with a wonderful powder 
called scurtii-scurtii. The powder is so finely ground 
that when let free in absolutely still air it hangs in 
the shape of a mist until a breeze blows it away. 
But it doesn't billow out like mist, or fog. By some 
curious property it hangs in the form of a thin, 
impenetrable curtain, either vertically or horizon- 
tally, according to the way it has been shot into the 
air. The disappearance trick in India can be done 
only on an absolutely calm day. Just as it could be 
done only in a vault like this, or in the store outside, 



TEE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 205 



when every one had gone, and there was no pos- 
sibility of a door opening. The powder was released 
from the cane when the end opened." 

" But the ruby ? " asked Mrs. Marie. " There is 
no break in the concrete walls ; no way that Mr. 
Norvel could have gotten access to this room." 

Colton pointed toward the brass wall-plate, with 
its two light buttons, a foot from her elbow. " There 
is the explanation, and the thing that told me how 
the trick had been done." 

They crowded around the table to gaze at the two 
innocent-appearing buttons. 

" When you snapped off the light for me," said 
the blind man to the jeweller, " my ear, trained for 
years to read every sound, immediately caught the 
false note in the snap of the button against the 
contact. When I snapped on the lights my fingers 
found something that no eye could ever have 
detected. Instead of being roughly ground mother- 
of-pearl, as the centre of those black buttons always 
is, my supersensitive finger tip knew instantly that 
it was highly polished glass ; a lens, in fact." 

" By Jove, you're right ! " Osmuhn had been 
examining it with a powerful glass. 

" Yes," nodded Colton, " and if you put the glass 
to the other plain button you'll see a narrow slot, 
not much thicker than a sheet of paper, through 
which the scurtii-scurtii was injected the minute 
Mr. Osmuhn turned his back to follow his invariable 
rule of arranging the small boxes in the safe, while 
the customer looked at the jewel. The minute the 
mist had covered the ruby, Norvel, in his office on 
the other side of the wall, where there is a plate 
exactly opposite this, so that the electricians would 
only have to make one hole for both in the solid 
concrete, swung the plates back and stole the jewel 
like this." 



206 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



He unscrewed the heavy knob from the other cane, 
and from the hollow interior took what looked like a 
slender cane that, they could see, was made like a 
telescope of wonderfully thin metal sections. At the 
small end was a shallow, heavy rubber cup, with the 
interior smeared with a thick, gummy substance. 
Colton's fingers found a curious trigger-like projec- 
tion at the larger end. 

" I don't need the ruby for this. When the wall 
plate, which he and the Hindu had fixed when Norvel 
was supposed to be working late, swung open — 
hidden, of course, from Mrs. Marie by the mist — he 
thrust the cup end of the cane through the opening 
like this." He thrust the cane toward Mrs. Marie's 
hand. Before she could jerk it away, his finger 
touched the trigger, and the cane shut up like a 
telescope, as swiftly and silently as a darting shaft 
of light. " The actual theft didn't take an instant," 
explained Colton, and he couldn't keep the admira- 
tion from his voice. " All he had to do was to touch 
the stone in your hand, which wasn't a foot from 
the wall-plate, the partial vacuum of the cup and the 
gummy substance would make it stick, and the 
spring inside would bring it through the plate-hole 
instantly. Then the plate closed, and the thing was 
accomplished before you could move a muscle." 

" But what made the mist disappear ? " Osmuhn 
wanted to know. " There was no current of air here." 

" When you turned you must have shut the safe 
door. Of course, that would blow it away instantly, 
and the powder is so fine that you'd never see a trace 
of it. In the robbery of the necklace Norvel swung 
around with his coat on his arm, so that it formed 
a fan." 

" But how did you ever connect the man who had 
fooled us all ; the man who had impersonated 
Norvel so successfully % " queried Osmuhn. 



THE THOUSAND FACETS OF FIRE 207 



Colton's lips curved in a curious smile. " The 
impersonation was so perfect that it would have 
deceived any one with eyes, just as his thefts did. 
And his acting of Davidson was a wonderful piece 
of work. He could impersonate everything but 
valvular heart disease." 

" Valvular heart disease ? " queried Osmuhn 
dumbly. 

" Yes." Colton's lips and voice were serious. 
" He was the most wonderful criminal I have ever 
met. A criminal with imagination great enough to 
plan such crimes, and daring sufficient to execute 
them when a single move, or a breath of air, would 
have betrayed him. But his acting was too good. 
When he came in here after stealing the ruby there 
was not a fraction of a beat above normal in his heart. 
He was as cool as ice when the heart of ninety-nine 
men out of a hundred would have been pounding 
like a trip hammer. It was steady as a clock even 
when I left him in the chair apparently on the verge 
of collapse. Even then he was planning an unsus- 
picious get-away. Even when Shrimp, my boy, 
almost knocked his chair over, there wasn't a flutter. 
I shook hands with him, so that I could establish 
his identity absolutely. To me there is as much 
difference between hands and wrists as there is 
between faces to men who see. But the pulse beat 
of valvular heart disease is absolutely unmistakable. 
The heart of the man who played Norvel so success- 
fully was as sound as my own. 

" I spoke in here of the possibility of the thief 
having learned his facts by listening to Norvel in his 
delirium. The thief realised that a cable to France 
might give away his whole game. I was afraid that 
he had hidden the necklace so cunningly that we 
wouldn't find it, though I knew where the ruby was 
ten minutes after it was stolen." 



208 



THE FIFTH PROBLEM 



Osmuhn half jumped from his chair. 

" You — knew where — the ruby was ! " he gasped. 

" Yes. I took care to touch his cane handles as I 
shook hands with him. Your son's story of the 
necklace theft told me that one of the canes was 
responsible for that. While he was in here the ruby 
was in the big knob at the end of the cane, not three 
feet away from where it had been stolen. But with 
my own stick and wonderfully sensitive finger-tips, 
I knew that the necklace had been put somewhere 
else. Therefore, I gave him the hint he needed 
about Mrs. Marie's reception. I knew if he had an 
imitation — which was likely, because he must have 
been on the track of the ruby to meet Norvel on the 
other side — he would try to get it into Mrs. Marie's 
possession for the purpose of confusing all of us. 
Then my boy found out about his dual role of 
Davidson and Norvel. Davidson appeared only 
after Norvel had arrived home, and Norvel was 
supposed to be in such physical condition that he 
couldn't be seen at home. I immediately told you 
that the jewel was an imitation, put in Mrs. Marie's 
home by the real thief, because I knew Norvel would 
hear all about it, and understand that I wasn't 
fooled for a minute. It was time for him to go. The 
French boat sailed at noon to-day. I knew he 
would see me, because he wouldn't miss an oppor- 
tunity to prove his superiority, and make a final 
grand-stand play by disappearing before our very 
eyes as Davidson, and walk out of the next house 
a few minutes later as Norvel the diamond expert, 
whose twenty-eight years' service with Osmuhn & 
Son placed him above suspicion. You see, he was 
taking no chances ; he always had two ways open. 
But he forgot that the mist he had appear in his 
library meant nothing to me. My eyes canH be 
deceived ! " 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



THE GILDED GLOVE 
I. 

A hundred eyes turned as the woman entered the 
dining-room ; a hundred lips parted in admiration 
as she made her way through the winding aisle of 
tables in the wake of the straight-backed head- 
waiter. There were many beautiful women in the 
room, but, among them all, she was wonderful. 
Under the soft glow of shaded lights the ivory tints 
of her skin, with the colour of rich warm blood under 
it, were accentuated by the burnished gold of her 
hair. Behind the full red Hps the pearl of her teeth 
showed ; the great brown eyes looked over the room 
calmly, with aloofness. There was nothing girlish 
about the new arrival. Every line, every curve, 
bespoke perfect maturity. 

Then the lips that had been parted in admiration 
curved in a smile as the eyes saw the man who 
followed her. He was scarcely five feet tall ; a 
caricature of a man. His small moustache and 
ragged Vandyke were so colourless that they could 
not be seen at a distance. And he walked behind 
the woman with a peculiar lifting of knees at each 
step that reminded every one who saw of a helpless 
little coach-dog. To a hundred minds flashed the 
simile : the beauty and the beast of Madame 
Villeneuve's immortal story, 



210 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



The waiter, conscious of the new attraction that 
was to make his dining-room picture perfect, stopped 
at a table in the corner and pulled back a chair 
with an unconscious nourish. 

" Your table, ma-dame ! " Then real regret tinged 
his tone : "It was all we had." 

A startled look leaped to the eyes of the woman ; 
died on the instant. Her tone was merely casual 
as she asked : 

" You got the reservation — how long ago ? " 

" A scant ten minutes, ma-dame." 

She turned her great eyes on the little man, and 
in her voice as she spoke was the hit of badinage. 
" And you were to telephone an hour ago, Pierre % " 
she censured. Her hand idly moved the napkin 
on the table. 

But the man did not answer. He had slumped 
into the chair at the other side of the small table 
even before she had made a move toward taking her 
own seat. His teeth chewed his ragged moustache- 
ends. Under the table his fingers interlocked and 
twitchingly separated. 

The woman's opera cloak slipped to the back of 
the chair, revealing the white purity of the skin of 
her shoulders, and the curves of the throat. She 
picked up the carte, du jour languidly, and a little 
pout came to her Hps, and a tracery of a scowl 
appeared on her forehead as she studied the 
items. 

" Absinthe, Pierre, and a cup of bouillon ? " she 
smiled. 

The man nodded. 

" Only the bouillon for me." 

A slight inclination of her head dismissed the 
waiter, and he hurried away. The woman rested 
an elbow on the table-edge and leaned forward. 
The wonderful smile still curved her hps, but the 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



211 



voice was hard as flint as she whispered in sibilant 
Italian : — 

" Stop it, you fool of a coward ! " 

His tongue touched his hps. " It has found us ! " 
he muttered chokingly, and the language he used 
was Russian. 

" Hasn't it always found us ? " she demanded 
hissingly, but the expression on her face changed not 
a bit. " Hasn't it always been on our heels ? But 
have I not laughed at it for years ? Laugh ! " The 
last word came like the lash of a whip through the 
smiling lips. 

The man's throat twitched, his face contorted, and 
a tremulous parody of laughter came. 

" Hideous ! " she snapped. " Pitiful ape of a 
man ! Stop it ! " 

" We cannot all be creatures of steel and stone ! " 
he muttered, in the curious patois of northern 
Hungary. 

" We can all act ! We can play our parts ! Be 
a gay boulevardier of Paris with the false courage 
of the green poison in the water of your veins ! " 
She spoke vehemently, and her words were the 
words of the Gascony peasant. 

She turned her gracious smile on the waiter as 
he appeared with the bouillon and the absinthe for 
the little man. 

" We shall order again presently," she said, in her 
perfect English, and the serving-man backed away. 

Without touching the folded napkin, she took a 
sip of the bouillon. Her eyes, pin-points of fire 
under the shade of the long lashes, watched the man 
take up the glass of dull-green liquor and drain it 
at a gulp. The fire died from her eyes as they saw 
the faint flush- of colour come to the yellow skin of 
the man and the steadiness of the hand that put the 
empty glass on the cloth. 



212 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



" Ah," she murmured, in liquid Spanish, her eyes 
fixed fondly on the face of the little man. " My 
Pierre is himself again. Sip of your bouillon, my 
dear." 

The little man obeyed her meekly. " The gaming- 
table has played the devil with my nerves," he 
growled. 

"But they are strong once more. See!" Her 
fingers lifted the folded napkin and laid it on her 
knee. The man leaned forward to stare at the white 
tablecloth it had covered. A gasping whistle of 
indrawn breath came from his Hps. On the white 
linen beside the woman's bouillon cup were five 
smudges of gold ; prints of the finger and thumb 
tips of a right hand. 

"The sign of the Gilded Glove!" he choked, 
and the colour went from his face. 

" Cease staring, owl of a man ! " she commanded 
in Italian. " Have you not seen the sign before ? 
Do the wrecked nerves of the rouge et noir table need 
another franc's worth of green heart ? Summon the 
waiter." 

With a doglike shake of his body the man threw 
off the fear that gripped him. He touched his empty 
glass. The woman gave another order, and the 
waiter hurried away. Then the man's eyes were 
drawn again to the five spots of gold. 

" The finger prints of warning, the crushed glove 
of sentence, the clutched glove of death I " He 
repeated it as though it were a lesson that, once 
learned, was never to be forgotten. 

" But have they not always been at my side ? " 
she asked quietly. " In Paris, in Constantinople, 
in Budapest, in St. Petersburg, have I not seen them 
always by my side ? Yet I live ! Should I fear in 
New York, when I have escaped in Europe, where 
the Long Arm sweeps everything ? " 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



213 



The waiter returned with the absinthe. The little 
man took the glass up slowly, sipped part of the 
liquor, and set it down. A glance from the eyes of 
the woman rewarded him. 

" Does my Pierre see any one who might wear the 
Gilded Glove ? " she asked. 

His small eyes roved around the dining-room, 
gazing intently at every face. He shook his head 
" They are all Americans ; men of wood and women 
of china. Asses all ! " The heavy gutturals of the 
German he now used made even more incongruous 
the puniness of his body. 

She nodded. " Those who so carefully reserved 
the table that we might see the sign have gone," 
she said, " and other ears cannot follow our 
talking." 

TheTman caught a glimpse of some one his eyes 
had missed before ; he moved a trifle to the left, 
to see behind a great pillar in a far corner of the 
room. 

" Your blind friend is eating his midnight meal 
of bread and beef-gravy," he said. 

" Mr. Colton ? " There was a new tone in the voice 
now, and the man instantly recognised it. 

" A blind man % " There was a sneer in the 
words. 

" I fear him ! " she whispered. " He is the only 
man on earth I have ever feared. He is the only 
man on earth I know I cannot deceive. All the 
things I have — my beauty, my nerves of steel, my 
acting, are to him as nothing. They delude only men 
of keen eyes ! The American secret agents who 
watch us are fools, but he ." 

" Bah ! A blind pig of an American ! " he 
sneered again. It was the man whose nerve was 
perfect now ; it was the woman who was unstrung. 

" His blindness makes me afraid I " She was 



214 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



talking passionately in French. " Minds that are 
closed to all the world are an open book to him. 
I know it!" 

" You think he knows of the plans ; of our going 
away to-morrow ? " The voice was sarcastic, but 
the words came slowly, haltingly, droned in the 
dialect of the lower Yang-tse-Kiang River. 

" I know not ! " she whispered, in purest Japanese. 
" He may ; he may not. But no mistake have I 
ever made in a man ! " 

" Then hide your fear," warned the man. " He 
has emptied his last glass of Celestin, and is coming 
toward this table." 

The woman's hand fluttered tremulously toward 
her throat ; but in an instant she was her calm, 
collected self. As she ate, and talked French 
commonplaces to the little man, she watched the 
approach of Thornley Colton from the corner of her 
eyes. She saw the white hair that curled and waved 
from the pink scalp ; the wonderful paleness of the 
face that was brought out strikingly by the great 
round lenses of the smoked-glass library spectacles 
with their tortoise-shell rims. She knew that the 
eyes behind them had been sightless from birth ; 
yet the strides of the approaching man through the 
winding aisle of tables were long and confident. Not 
a false move did he make, stepping aside at just the 
proper moment to avoid hurrying waiters, halting 
a second to let a nimble omnibus pass ; never once 
turning to ask a question of the black-haired, apple- 
cheeked man who followed at his heels. 

At the table he stopped, a smile of pleasure lighting 
his pale, strong face, as he extended his hand. " A 
delightful surprise, Madame Gorski ! " he said, with 
quiet enthusiasm. " Sydney told me that you were 
here, but I could scarcely credit my good fortune. 
When is the next of your marvellous recitals to be? " 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



215 



The woman's smile of joy and surprise as she took 
his hand had been wonderful in its perfection, and 
as she answered his last question, no human ear 
could have detected the he behind the words : "In 
a few days, M'seur Colton. You are an inspiration. 
One seldom finds so appreciative a person. My 
husband thinks them frightful affairs. " 

" But Monsieur Gorski is not blind," smiled 
Colton, as he took the hand of the little man. " Music 
is the only beautiful thing we of the darkness have, 
you know. Eyes can see God's wonderful creations 
and the beautiful things man's hands have wrought. 
We can only hear." 

A tender look of genuine sympathy came to the 
eyes of Madame Gorski. " Won't you sit down and 
talk ? " she invited. 

She saw Thornley Colton's hand go to his vest- 
pocket, and she knew that the supersensitive finger- 
tips were feeling the face of the crystalless watch he 
carried. 

He shook his head. "It is twelve-forty," he 
apologised. " I make it my invariable rule to be in 
bed at one." He stepped back regretfully. " Pardon 
me," he said suddenly, " your napkin has fallen 
to the floor." He leaned over quickly, picked it up, 
and put it on the end of the table. " Au revoir." 
He smiled again, and with a nod to the silent Sydney 
Thames, who had merely bowed to the man and the 
woman, he started between the tables towards the 
entrance of the dining-room. 

The woman's eyes followed him. When he had 
disappeared through the door she turned to her 
husband. " A wonderful man ! " she murmured. 
" Wonderful ! " She expected a sneer, but her 
husband was staring at the crumpled-up napkin 
Thornley Colton had picked up. 

" You say he is blind ! " he hissed, in French. 



216 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



She nodded, puzzled. 

" Then how did he know your napkin had 
fallen ? Can he hear the fall of linen on velvet ? 
Can he ? " 

She reached toward the napkin, lifted a corner 
as she pulled it toward her ; then withdrew her 
hand suddenly. In the crumpled-up folds of the 
linen both had seen the dull glint of gilt ; both 
knew that concealed in the napery was a crushed, 
gilded glove ! 

" The sentence ! " choked the man. 

The woman lifted her eyes to the door through 
which Thornley Colton had passed a few minutes 
before. " Can he be one of the sinews of the 
Long Arm ? " she murmured : "A man like 
that ! " 

Her fingers toyed with her fork a moment. " Pay 
the check, Pierre," she said finally, and there was a 
note of hopelessness in her voice. " We will go 
home. I am tired." 

The admiring eyes that had watched the woman 
enter followed her as she left the room. The face, 
calm, patrician, was beautiful ; and the long lashes 
hid the look in the deep, brown eyes. In the taxi 
seat she relaxed ; the beautiful face held an expres- 
sion of utter weariness. The little man's hand 
touched her shoulder reverently, caressingly. 

" Do not falter now, ma chlre," he murmured. 
" To-morrow we will have the plans of the harbour 
mines and the hundred thousand dollars they will 
bring. We will go far away, then, out of reach of 
the Long Arm and its glove of gilt." 

" To-morrow," she breathed softly, and she 
touched his cheek with her lips. She was a woman, 
was Hedwig Gorski, strange, unreadable. Her heart 
was a woman's heart, and grim-lipped men in 
a hundred cities knew that she loved this little 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



217 



caricature of a man. A smile came to her lips, 
"Yes," she whispered, in low-voiced Russian, "to- 
morrow we will be through with it all." 

At the big hotel where they stopped the woman 
commanded the same admiration ; the man the same 
derisive smiles. But they did not see. In their 
apartment on the thirteenth floor, whose door was 
watched night and day by the floor clerks they had 
bribed to see that no one. entered, the woman sank 
into a big chair beside the table. The man snapped 
on the lights in every room, and peered into every 
corner. " No one has entered," he announced, when 
he had seen that every window still held the screws 
he had driven through the frames the first hour they 
had occupied the apartments. 

" Leave me a few minutes, mon cher" the woman 
said, and she pulled his head down to kiss him. " I 
must think — alone." 

Obediently, doglike, he went out into the hall and 
turned the key in the lock behind him. The woman 
sighed. She rose and went to the small cabinet, 
took from it a bottle of wine and a glass. She 
started to pour the liquor ; then shook her head. 

" Poison," she whispered. " That would be their 
only chance. I can't risk it." She went into the 
bathroom and turned on the hot water, rinsing the 
glass under the stream until the water was almost 
boiling. Then she filled the glass to the brim under 
the cold-water tap, drained it. She walked slowly 
back to the room, switched off the lights, and seated 
herself again in the big chair. 

The minutes passed. The woman never moved ; 
her eyes stared unwaveringly into the darkness before 
her. And from out the dark a gilded hand came 
slowly, certainly. It touched the throat of the 
woman. Hedwig Gorski did not move. The fingers 
of gold tightened. 



218 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



Outside the door came the voice of Gorski : " Do 
you wish anything, Hedwig, ma chfoe ? " 

And from the darkness came the voice of his wife : 
" Non, Pierre, mon cher" 

But neither the eyes nor the lips of the woman, 
nor yet the gilded fingers, had moved. 

Silence. The man's voice called again. There 
was no answer. Shaking, he unlocked the door and 
entered the room. A curtain that had been pulled 
to the bottom of the window was up now. A shaft 
of moonlight shone on the woman's face — a dead 
face. At her throat a golden hand seemed clutched. 
But he came nearer, and saw that it was an empty, 
gilded glove. And in the air of the room was the 
faint odour of crushed bananas. 

II. 

The little French clock had just chimed the hour 
of three when the tinkling telephone-bell waked 
Thornley Colton. He reached forth a hand to the 
crystalless watch on the small table at his bed-side 
and whistled. The bell jingled again. He threw a 
bath robe over his shoulders and went into the 
library. 

He answered the inquiring voice instantly : 
" Good morning, Mr. Ames. Certainly. I will be 
ready in ten minutes." 

For a minute after he had hung up the receiver 
he stood in the darkness, his sightless eyes fixed 
on the mouthpiece of the instrument. Then he went 
into Sydney Thames's room and touched him lightly 
on the shoulder. " Get dressed," he said quietly, 
but the apple-cheeked secretary saw the grim, 
ominous lines that were around the thin hps. "Ames, 
of the diplomatic secret service, will be here in fifteen 
minutes. Madame Gorski has been murdered." 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



219 



" Murdered ! " The emotional, highly -strung 
Thames echoed the word in horror. 

" Yes." Still that tone of quiet certainty. " An 
hour or so ago, I should judge. We will probably 
go down to the hotel. Hustle ! " he admonished 
again, as he hurried from the room. 

In less than ten minutes Thornley Colton, fully 
dressed, and smoking a cigarette, was seated in the 
library awaiting the coming of the secret agent. 
The door-bell rang, and he rose to answer it. 

He stopped in the hall, when his superkeen ears 
caught the patter of bare feet on the carpet. " Go 
back to bed, Shrimp," he ordered. 

" Gee, is it a case, Mister Colton ? " The wide- 
eyed boy, with the fiery-red hair, the multitude of 
freckles, and the slightly-twisted nose, asked the 
question eagerly. His hands literally trembled with 
anticipation as they fumbled with the front of his 
purple pyjama coat. 

" Yes." Thornley Colton's lip curved in a slight 
smile, and he patted the boy's shoulder fondly. 
" But you can do nothing to-night. Go back to 
bed, and to-morrow there may be some real de- 
tective work for you to do." 

" Gosh, I hope so ! " the boy exclaimed fervently ; 
then his voice became almost wistful : " Gee, Mister 
Colton. I wisht youh'd let me get in a case where 
there was real Nick Carter stuff ; blackjacks, an' 
assaults, an' stuff like that." 

" You've got a long life before you, Shrimp," 
smiled the blind man, as he started downstairs to 
answer the second ring of the bell. 

The man who entered had his rain-coat buttoned 
up to his chin, and the brim of his soft hat came 
down to the eyes that gleamed from under it. 

Colton bowed gravely. "Rather an early- 
morning call, Mr. Ames." 



220 



TEE SIXTH PROBLEM 



The gimlet eyes of the secret agent were fixed 
on his pale face, seeming to bore and probe into the 
very soul of the blind man. " Mind telling me how 
you knew my name ? " he asked. " To my know- 
ledge we have never met before." 

" I think we never have." The grave smile still 
curved Thornley Colton's thin lips. " But I never 
forget a voice I have once heard. I heard yours 
several years ago, when I was trying to solve the 
puzzle of the missing Villers code book. The 
diplomatic service was somewhat interested in that 
case, I believe." 

" So you're that man ! " There was new respect 
in the tone, and the eyes of the secret agent gleamed 
brighter. 

" A lucky touch of the fingers found the solution 
of the case," explained Colton modestly. " If you 
will come up to my library we can talk more com- 
fortably." He turned and ascended the stairs. 

Sydney Thames was already in the library, and 
Thornley Colton introduced him. " My secretary, 
Mr. Ames." He seemed to sense the other's desire 
for a private conversation, and added : " My eyes, 
also." 

The secret agent accepted the presence of a third 
person, and took off his rain-coat. Seated in a big 
chair, which a gesture of the blind man's arm had 
indicated, he asked his first question abruptly, 
curtly : — 

" Mr. Colton, what do you know about Hedwig 
Gorski ? " 

A thin ribbon of blue smoke rose from the blind 
man's hps. He seemed to watch the smoke waver 
ceilingward before he answered : "I think she is 
one of the most remarkable women I have ever met. 
There is no subject she cannot discuss intelligently. 
She speaks all languages, apparently, and she is the 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



221 



only woman I ever met who can interpret Grieg 
properly. In fact, I would consider her the most 
accomplished and wonderful international spy I ever 
met." 

Ames straightened in his chair as though he had 
been suddenly jabbed with a pin. " How did you 
know that ? " he demanded. 

" By a process of ehmination made necessary by 
lack of eyes. I sought an introduction to Madame 
Gorski after I had heard her husband address her in 
the Cantonese dialect. I spent several years in China, 
and, naturally, I was interested. And her musicales 
have been wonderful affairs — wonderful, and food 
for considerable thought!" he finished musingly, 

" You know that she is dead — murdered ? " 

" Your visit at this hour could mean nothing else. 
I have known for some time that Madame Gorski 
feared something. I have known also that she was 
constantly watched." 

For a minute there was silence in the room. 
Ames took a cigarette from his case, lighted it, and 
became absorbed in the spiraling smoke. Sydney 
Thames, silent, as always, sat back to listen. The 
secret agent reached his decision and spoke : — 

" Mr. Colton, I came here with a different plan of 
procedure in my mind. I'm going to be frank. For 
months we have known that negotiations have been 
going on with a foreign government to obtain pos- 
session of the secret naval plans of the harbour 
mines in New York harbour. When you understand 
that those planted electrical mines are the only real 
safeguard against the invasion of the greatest city 
in America, you will know just what they are worth. 
We know Hedwig Gorski came to this country to 
get them — from whom we have never been able to 
discover. But we have watched every movement, 
opened every line of mail she has received, and have 



222 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



not been able to find a single clue. For a month my 
wife and I have occupied an apartment in the hotel 
directly opposite the Gorski rooms. We have been 
on guard day and night, as have the floor clerks we 
learned that she had bribed. This morning at one- 
twenty-five Hedwig Gorski and her husband re- 
turned to their apartment. They went in, lighted 
every fight, and I know they were examining every- 
thing to see whether or not the rooms had been 
entered. In a few minutes Gorski came out, locked 
the door, and began pacing up and down before it. 
This was something new, and we watched him 
curiously. He called. HQs wife answered cheerily 
in French. Ten minutes later he called again. There 
was no answer. He unlocked the door and stumbled 
in. I was at his heels. Madame Gorski was dead 
in her chair. At her throat was an empty gilded 
glove — like a hand of gold that had strangled her." 

" A gilded glove." Colt on repeated it without 
incredulity or surprise in his voice ; merely as the 
verification of a known fact. 

" You know of the Gilded Glove ? " asked the 
secret agent quickly. 

" Yes. My world wanderings have taken me to 
Russia. The glove has always had a peculiar signifi- 
cance. In China two thousand years ago a glove 
was always given to make legal the transfer of land. 
The custom was also in vogue among the ancient 
Egyptians and Phoenicians. In the correct literal 
translations of the Bible the word * glove ' is found 
instead of ' shoe ' in the fourth chapter of Ruth, 
and in the one hundred and eighth Psalm." 

Ames nodded, and the blind man went on : 
" Twenty years ago a certain Russian order first 
used the gilded glove as a death sign for traitors 
to the government. With a love of the significant 
that only the true Oriental mind has — and the mind 



TEE GILDEb GLOVE 



223 



of the Russian is all Oriental — the gilded glove was 
left at the throat of persons who transferred their 
allegiance for gold." 

" That is right," corroborated Ames. " Hedwig 
Gorski and her husband were the greatest spies 
Russia had. Then, for some unknown reason, they 
went into the service of another country. And for 
five years she has laughed at the Gilded Glove and 
its wearers, who have been constantly on her trail." 
Again he smoked in silence for a few minutes, his 
eyes fixed on the ceiling. " You seem to know a 
whole lot about this thing, Mr. Colton," he said 
frankly. " I'd like you to come with me to the hotel. 
When I entered the room, Gorski, who is a little rat, 
and heaven only knows how a woman like Hedwig 
could love him, was absolutely insane. He moaned 
and cried without seeing me for several minutes. 
When he did, he accused you of the murder ! " 

" Accused " Sydney Thames half rose in his 

chair and flopped back into it with a gasp of amazed 
horror. 

Thornley Colton's face had not a flicker of expres- 
sion. " Yes ? " he said politely. 

The gimlet eyes of the secret agent went ceiling- 
ward once more. " He muttered something about 
his wife having always feared you — which is the 
highest compliment that could possibly come from 
a woman like Hedwig Gorski. He also babbled 
something about your not being blind because you 
had seen his wife's napkin fall to the floor, and that, 
when you put it on the table, its folds concealed a 
crushed gilded glove — the sentence of death. He 
swears that you couldn't have heard the napkin 
fall on the velvet carpet." 

" The napkin had not fallen," Colton said evenly. 
" I pulled it from Madame Gorski's knees as I leaned 
over to^pick up the crushed gilt glove I knew was 



% 



224 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



on the carpet by her chair." His fingers felt the 
crystalless watch in his pocket. " If you don't 
mind," he apologised, " I'd like to get down to the 
hotel as soon as possible. The most valuable clue, 
I think, will disappear shortly." 

Ames opened his mouth, then closed it. " My 
taxi is waiting at the door," he said quietly, as he 
picked up his rain-coat. " I warned the hotel 
manager that the police were not to be notified 
until I gave permission. Even the murder is of 
secondary importance to finding a clue to the 
damned traitor who is going to sell those harbour 
plans ! " 

" A human life, to me, is a wonderful thing," 
murmured Colton, as he slipped into his overcoat 
and took the thin cane that gave its messages to his 
supersensitive finger-tips. There was unconscious 
rebuke in his tone. 

It was not until they were in the taxi, well on their 
way down, that the silence was broken. Then 
Ames spoke again. " I'll frankly admit that the 
murder is a most wonderful piece of work. I went 
over every inch of the rooms while Gorski was 
gibbering. The door is absolutely the only entrance, 
and I know they looked over the apartment pretty 
thoroughly. Gorski could not have done it, even 
if he had the nerve. I heard his wife answer him. 
I couldn't see a thing ! " 

In the darkness Colton nodded. " I don't think 
this will be a case where eyes will be of much use," 
he said quietly. 

The taxi stopped at the entrance of the big hotel, 
and they went through the lobby without exciting 
comment or receiving a single stare. The news of the 
murder had not been allowed to get downstairs. 
But a man lounging, half asleep, in a leather chair, 
made a slight signal that Ames understood. The 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



225 



secret-service agents had covered the hotel, and 
were working in a dozen different places. 

As the three men entered the Gorski apartment, 
Monsieur Gorski rose from his chair with a half- 
suppressed scream of rage. " Murderer ! " he 
hissed, in French. " Murderer ! " 

A heavy hand forced him back, and an apologetic 
voice came to the ears of Thornley Colton. 

" He's been ravin' that way for an hour, Mister 
Colton," put in the red-faced man at Gorski's side. 

" Good morning, Joe," Colton greeted the house 
detective. 

The white-faced manager of the hotel, who had 
stood back, nervously biting his finger-nails, came 
forward. " We must notify the police, Mr. Ames," 
he protested. " I have obeyed your instructions, 

but if they ever know " The manager left 

unspoken the horrible possibilities, but his whole 
manner cried them aloud. 

" You can notify them in a very few minutes, 
Mr. Jones," the blind man's voice cut in curtly. 
He went to the side of the dead woman unerringly, 
A faint flush seemed to mount to his pale cheeks ; 
his thin nostrils quivered like those of a hound on 
the scent. Almost reverently he touched the cheek 
of Hedwig Gorski. His fingers, fight as wind-blown 
thistledown, brushed the beautiful cold skin under 
the eyes, then down to the throat, stopping short 
before reaching the five finger-marks of gold that 
were deep in the flesh. The gilded glove was on the 
table, where it had fallen as soon as Gorski had 
touched it. The blind man seemed not even aware 
of its existence. 

" Have you a glass, Mr. Ames ? " asked the 
problemist, and there was unintentional curtness 
in his tone. Thornley Colton' s whole mind was on 
the case before him ; nothing else existed. 
P 



226 



TEE SIXTH PROBLEM 



The secret agent took a magnifying glass from 
his pocket. 

" Look at the gilt finger-prints ! " ordered the 
blind man, as his two hands lifted the woman's 
arms. ' ' Are the prints cleanly cut, sharp ? " 

" Not a single blur ! " announced Ames, raising 
his eyes. " She never moved a muscle after those 
fingers clutched her throat.' ' 

" Ah ! " Quiet triumph was in the blind man's 
voice. " Madame Gorski was poisoned ! " 

" Poisoned I " It seemed that every one in the 
room echoed it. The clutched glove at the throat, 
the deep graven finger-prints of gilt had seemed 
to point to but one thing. 

" Yes. No hand of that size could have sufficient 
strength to keep the woman from moving and 
blurring the gilt prints that were put there with 
another gilt glove worn on the hand of the murderer. 
The wearer of the gilt glove would not overlook a 
detail. He probably carried the other glove in a 
box so that its shape would not be lost, and fitted 
it to the prints after. It is the usual way." 

" The bottle and the glass ! " Ames took a step 
nearer, but Colton's hand picked up the glass beside 
the tall wine-bottle. He stepped away from the 
table, and raised the glass to his Hps ; held it there 
for several seconds. 

" Hedwig Gorski did not drink from this glass ! " 

" Why % How do you know that ? " Ames 
gasped it. 

" Because it was put there by the man whose 
gloved hand made those marks on Madame Gorski's 
throat after she was dead." 

" Bah ! " The expletive came in a snarling sneer 
from the dead woman's husband. " You think my 
wonderful Hedwig a fool ? She would drink of no 
wine that had been unguarded all evening ! I heard 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



227 



her in the bathroom washing the glass for one, two, 
three minutes. If she drank she drank fresh water." 

" How long after you heard the water running 
did she answer you ? " asked Colton ; and even 
in his sightless eyes there seemed to come a light. 

" Five, six, seven, ten minutes. Ten minutes," 
repeated the husband, with sullen positiveness. 

" As long as that ? " 

" Yes." 

" Where is the bathroom, Sydney ? " snapped 
Colton. The muscles under the skin of his lean jaws 
played back and forth. He was tense as a hound 
in leash. 

" Five steps to the right, half turn," Sydney 
answered mechanically, his eyes judging the distance 
instantly because of years of practice. 

Colton darted inside. He turned on the hot water 
and bent down so that his face was not an inch 
away from the ranning stream. He did the same 
thing when he had turned the cold-water tap. 

" The devilish ingenuity of it ! " They heard him 
mutter as he straightened up. 

" What is it ? " Again Ames asked the question. 
Student of men as his work had made him, Ames had 
realised, minutes before, that he was in the presence 
of a man who would lead always ; he understood 
that he was but a pupil before a master. 

" They knew Madame Gorski was too clever to 
be poisoned in any ordinary way. They knew that 
she would even suspect the presence of poison in an 
empty glass, and would wash any glass, under the 
hot-water tap, before she drank, because the heat 
would dissolve any poison. They knew, also, that 
if she wanted a drink it would be of cold water, fresh 
from the tap. The poison, a paste of peculiar odour 
that my keen sense of smell instantly detected, is 
smeared on the inside of the cold-water faucet s The 



228 



TEE SIXTH PROBLEM 



minute it was turned, the stream that flowed was 
almost pure poison ! " 

" Good God ! " came the horror-stricken voice of 
the hotel manager. 

" But there must have been some one here to 
make those marks and leave the gilded glove," put 
in Ames. 

" Where is the clothes-closet ? " Colton asked. 

The secret agent hurried into the bedroom that 
adjoined the room of death. Colton was at his heels, 
the slim, hollow cane locating every piece of furni- 
ture as he passed. Ames opened the door of a closet 
full of clothes, and stepped inside. Colton stood at 
the threshold, his head bent forward, apparently 
peering intently into the depths of the closet. 

" Another ? " he asked curtly. 

In the other bedroom was a huge wardrobe. Ames 
opened it, and again the blind man seemed to look 
into every corner of it. " The murderer hid in there 
behind the clothes ! Take some of them out and 
you'll find flecks of gilt from the glove he wore ! " 

The secret agent grabbed an armful and threw 
them on the bed, with no regard for their mussing. 
He pawed them over. His eyes found what they 
sought, and he uttered a shout of triumph. " Here 
they are ! On the Inverness and this black evening 
gown ! " Then awe came to his voice. " How did 
you know that ? " he asked. " How could you 
know it — and blind ? " 

" Because I am blind. Because my other senses 
are abnormally developed to recompense the loss 
of sight. I knew the murderer had hidden in the 
closet ; I knew the gilt from the glove he wore on 
his hand would come off on the clothes that con- 
cealed him, just as I knew the glass on the table 
was not the one Madame Gorski had used, and just 
as I knew the crushed glove was at her feet in the 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



229 



restaurant — because I have a sense of smell that is 
more than doubly acute. Wherever there is gilt 
there is banana oil. It is always used in gilding, 
and its odour is unmistakable. I knew of the men 
of the Gilded Glove, and I suspected that Madame 
Gorski feared it. When my nostrils caught the 
odour and located it at the floor beside her chair, 
I knew instantly what it meant. I covered it with 
the napkin so that people would not stare. I 
wanted her to see it so that she might be warned. 
The glass on the table has the banana-oil odour 
because the murderer placed it there with the hand 
that still smelled of the oil with which the soft kid 
of the glove had become saturated. The smell was 
also in the wardrobe. Simple, isn't it % " A mirth- 
less smile curved his thin Hps. Thornley Colton 
could not forget that in the next room was the body 
of the woman killed by the hand that left its trail 
so faintly that only his blindness enabled him to 
follow it. 

" Where are the windows ? " Colton asked 
sharply, before any one had a chance to say a word. 
" In the next room, overlooking the street." 
" Show them to me." 

Ames hurried back to the sitting-room. The hotel 
manager still bit his finger-nails. The husband of 
the woman who was dead had buried his face in his 
hands, and was sobbing. The eyes of the hotel 
detective were fixed on Colton, following his every 
movement, in them a look of wondering admiration. 

The blind man's feeling fingers examined every 
inch of the casements that overlooked busy Broad- 
way, thirteen storeys below. " Nothing here," he 
said, when he had finished. " There must be another 
window ! " 

" Only a small one, in the bathroom, that over- 
looks an air-shaft," the secret agent informed him. 



230 



TEE SIXTH PROBLEM 



Colton turned and darted into the bathroom, 
" This is the one ! " Once more his exploring fingers 
went over every inch. 

" But that hasn't been touched. Not a screw has 
been loosened, 5 ' declared Ames positively. 

" No, there hasn't been a screw touched. The 
murderer was too clever for that, but he wasn't 
clever enough to get the banana-oil smell from his 
fingers. The entire pane was taken out by cutting 
away the putty, and probably put back with 
triangular tin tacks that would never be noticed 
through the frosted glass." 

" That's a mighty small opening," Ames said 
slowly. 

" The murderer must have been small, and as 
active as a cat. Also " Colton did not finish ; he 
stepped out of the bathroom. " Who has the rooms 
directly over this one ? " he asked the manager. 

" They have no occupants yet," hesitated the 
nervous Mr. Jones. 

" When were they coming ? Who were they ? " 
The questions came sharply, crisply. 

" A couple from Philadelphia, who telegraphed 
to have them reserved. They had occupied them 
once before, and liked them." 

" Clever," muttered the blind man. " They 
wouldn't take a chance of occupying them, but 
were going to see to it that they were empty when 
wanted. Let's look at them." 

" But what am I going to do ? " began the 
nerve-frayed manager. " The police " 

" Notify them." 

Colton gave the permission grimly ; then a look 
of compassion came to his face as he seemed aware 
of the presence of Monsieur Gorski for the first time. 
He took a step toward him ; then halted. He could 
do nothing — now. 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



231 



"Joe?" lie said softly. The house detective 
glanced at the inert figure of the man, and came 
forward. " When the police come, let them arrest 
Gorski," Colton whispered. " He will be safe in 
their hands, and God knows he isn't safe from that 
band of gilt-handed devils anywhere else. It will 
only be a short time before the real murderer is 
found." 

The house detective nodded. " It'll be best that 
way," he admitted. 

" Show us the rooms ! " ordered Colton ; then, 
as the manager hesitated : " Let Joe telephone 
police headquarters from here," he advised shortly. 

With Ames and Sydney at his heels, he followed 
the manager to the floor above. The minute the 
lights were snapped on in the apartment, Ames ran 
to the open bathroom window. In a heap on the 
floor under it was a thin, strong rope. Beside it 
were fragments of what had been a wine flask, and 
an empty pasteboard box, with the inside smeared 
with gilt — the one in which the gilt glove found at 
the woman's throat had been carried to prevent it 
handling. And under the bath-tub was thrown 
another glove of gilt, with most of the gold worn 
off the inside of the fingers. 

" Good Lord ! " gasped Ames eagerly. " There's 
clues enough here ! " 

" Too many ! " declared Colton tersely. He 
turned to the manager. " Who has the apartments 
opposite this ? " 

" A German family," the head of the hotel 
answered, as a pupil to a teacher. 

" How many ? " 

" Three. A big, bearded man and his wife, and 
a gawky boy. They've been here a week." 
" The boy ! Describe him ! " 
" Well," began the manager nervously* " He's 



232 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



about seventeen, I should judge, but small. He's 
awkward, and speaks the rottenest English I ever 
heard in the darndest, squeakiest voice. Seems 
to like to listen to people, though, and he's 
always sitting around the lobby gaping at the 
guests." 

" I want to see him ! " Colton's voice had a new 
note, dominant, compelling. 

" At this hour ? " stammered the manager. 
" Now ! " 

Ames, attracted by the tone and the words, came 
from the bathroom. 

" What is it ? " he asked eagerly. 

' ' The man who murdered Madame Gorski." 

" Where ? " 

" I don't know — now." Thornley Colton spoke 
the words over his shoulder, for he was following the 
manager out of the room. A knock at the door 
across the hall brought no response. Colton pushed 
the manager aside, and, with his horrified protest 
unheeded, opened the unlocked door. A snap of 
the lights under Ames' fingers, and the men saw 
that the rooms were empty. But in the air was a 
strong smell of banana oil. 

" The floor clerk ! " demanded Colton, and the 
manager went meekly to get him. 

Ames was everywhere, rummaging, prying with 
practiced fingers into every drawer, every closet. 
Each piece of clothing he pulled out was examined 
with lightning-moving fingers. He picked the lock 
of the big trunk, and cursed when the opened lid 
revealed only cloth-wrapped stones. But in the 
bottom was an overturned bottle that had once held 
gilt. 

" The glove had just been gilded," guessed the 
secret agent. 

The floor clerk entered, visibly nervous. 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



233 



" When did the German boy return here to-night?" 
asked Colton. 

" About twelve-thirty." 
" Alone ? " 
" Yes." 

" Were his mother and father in the room ? " 

The floor clerk scratched his head. " I didn't 
see them come in, but I heard them giving the kid 
the very devil. They raised an awful row." He 
grinned at the recollection. 

" Ah ! " The blind man's tone held quiet satis- 
faction. " And an hour or so later the boy slipped 
out, saying that his mother and father were asleep, 
and he was going downstairs to watch the people 
for a while." 

" Yes." There was amazement written all over 
the hotel clerk's face. 

Colton turned to face Ames. " The bird has 
flown," he said quietly. " He is the one who entered 
Madame Gorski's rooms, put the poison in the tap 
and the glove at her throat. For a week the three 
have been waiting their opportunity. To-night all 
was ready. The father and mother left early in the 
evening, and did not return. They, or another 
accomplice, dropped the glove at Madame Gorski's 
chair in passing, expecting her to look down and see 
it. The waiter probably kicked it so near her chair 
that she couldn't have noticed it if the smell of the 
banana oil hadn't made me find it." 

' * But the clerk heard the father and mother 
talking ? " protested Ames. " He didn't see them 
go out, and," he added, " there are several of my 
men around who would have stopped them in- 
stantly." 

" No one left that room but the boy ! " There 
was no gainsaying the positiveness in the floor 
clerk's tone. 



234 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



The grim smile came again to Thornley Colton's 
lips. " When I learned that Madame Gorski had 
answered her husband ten minutes after he had heard 
the water running, and she must have taken the 
poison, I began to suspect the true facts. A poison 
that left no signs of agony must have killed quickly 
and painlessly. It wasn't her voice monsieur heard 
at all ! It was the voice of a wonderful mimic ; 
the mimic who made the floor clerk believe that 
his mother and father were scolding him in this 
room. And who would stop a gawky German 
boy ? You have his description. Put your men at 
work." He rose. " Come, Sydney, it is time for 
breakfast." 

The secret agent took his hand and shook it 
fervently. " I can't tell you how I thank you," he 
said, and there was genuine feeling in his voice. 
" But I will see that Washington recognises this 
night's work of yours." 

Once more the mirthless smile that had been in 
evidence so often that night came to his lips. " I 
want no recognition," he said slowly. " I merely 
want to avenge the death of the most wonderful 
woman I ever met. There is nothing half so precious 
as the life of a woman, or a child." 

He bowed gravely. Silently he and Sydney 
walked to the elevator and into the lobby. Halfway 
out Thornley Colton stopped. 

" I want to telephone the house, Sydney. There's 
a foolish fear in my mind that I can't throw off." 
He went into the telephone-booth. When he 
emerged a minute later, there was a look on his 
face that Sydney Thames had never seen before ; 
a look terrible in its earnestness. 

" Do you believe in presentiments, Sydney ? " 
The blind man's voice was calm, even. He gave 
his secretary no chance to answer. " I have just 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



235 



had one come true. John found five finger-smudges 
of gold on the white table-cloth in the dining-room, 
and Shrimp has disappeared absolutely 1 " 

III. 

Thornley Colton paced the floor of his library 
with long, tigerish strides. His head was bowed, 
and over his eyes the lines of concentration had 
deepened in the hours of the long day. His fingers 
touched the face of the crystalless watch in his 
pocket. 

" Three o'clock," he muttered. He turned to the 
desk and its telephone ; stretched forth a hand, 
withdrew it, and shook his head. Again his strides 
covered the length of the room ; across and back, 
across and back. 

He lifted his head eagerly — lowered it. The steps 
his superkeen ears had heard were only those of 
Sydney Thames, as he left his bedroom on the 
floor above. 

" Any news yet, Thorn ? " asked the apple- 
cheeked secretary as he entered. The blind man 
shook his head. 

" Nothing," he said quietly. He took a half -turn 
around the room, then suddenly wheeled to face 
the silent Thames. " If anything happens to that 
boy, Sydney, I swear to God I'll punish those 
responsible ! " The voice, always so calm, so un- 
stirred by any inner feeling, now trembled with 
fierce passion. The blind man seemed to realise 
that the mask he had cultivated so carefully for 
years had dropped ; for his tone was even as he 
continued : "I thought when I took him that I 
could give him the real life he had been denied. 
But I understand now that I was only bringing 
him to take the risks that have never caused me a 



236 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



second thought. I realise now the dozens of times 
I have sent him into places of danger, merely to 
satisfy my own conceit ; to enable me to beat some 
one else on a baffling case. Now he is gone ! All 
my vaunted powers are useless, and I'm as much 
at sea as the veriest tyro. A problemist ? I ! " 
His voice vibrated with scorn and self -denunciation. 

" You are in no way to blame ! " defended 
Sydney Thames instantly. 

Colt on turned again on his heel. " I'm as guilty 
as hell ! " he declared vehemently. " Why do you 
suppose J ohn or the other servants heard no noise ? 
Do you think it was because the man who murdered 
Madame Gorski, the man who made those glove 
prints downstairs, overcame Shrimp so easily and 
so quietly ? No ! It was because of the training 
I have given the boy ; training to be instantly on 
the alert to follow, to shadow, to discover ; training 
that no boy should have had. Shrimp, sent 
brusquely to bed by me, couldn't sleep. What boy 
could ? But I didn't understand. I only looked 
at it from my side. He probably heard the man 
who entered. Instead of raising an alarm as a 
normal person would, he probably followed him 

outside. Then " His hands spread wide before 

him in a gesture of helplessness. 

This was a side of Thornley Colton that Sydney 
Thames had never seen before ; a new side, a human 
side. He understood now the deep love for the 
undersized, red-haired boy with the twisted nose 
that was in the heart of the blind man. He hadn't 
understood the depths of Colton's feelings when the 
blind man had gone through the house calmly when 
they returned to search for clues. He hadn't sus- 
pected that there was anything but the cold, analyti- 
cal love of a problem in the cool voice that had put 
ten thousand police in the big city on the trail of 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



237 



the missing boy. Nor had he understood the cool 
way Thornley Colton had directed Ames and his 
squad of underground diplomatic workers to rake 
the city with a fine-tooth comb for the murderer of 
Hedwig Gorski. No, he hadn't understood then. 
Through it all Colton had been the same dominant, 
emotionless machine, directing, suggesting, issuing 
curt orders. 

But the hours of inaction had done their work. 
For the first time in his life the problemist was 
completely at sea. The signs he had read so uner- 
ringly a hundred times before ; signs that were 
usually hidden from men of eyes, were missing in 
this new development of the Gorski case. The man 
who had left the finger-prints of the gilded glove had 
apparently entered with a key, for there was not a 
scratch on a window or door. He had touched 
nothing but the white table-cloth, for there was not 
a trace of the banana oil anywhere else. There was 
nothing, absolutely nothing, to tell a fact about the 
disappearance of The Fee. He was gone. That 
was all. And Thornley Colton could do nothing but 
wait. His blindness made him helpless now. 

The telephone -bell rang, and Colton sprang to 
answer it. The eager expression died from his face 
as the voice of the secret agent came over the wire. 

" No trace of the boy yet — Ah ! — A bundle of 
manuscript music addressed to Madame Gorski at 
the post-office ? — No word ? — Yes, bring it up to 
the house. I think it will fit a theory I have been 
constructing for some time. Good-bye." 

He hung up the receiver wearily, and his voice 
was tired as he spoke to Sydney Thames. " Not a 
word," he said slowly. " Ames is wholly engrossed 
with the search for those harbour-mine plans. That 
is the big thing to him. The murder of Madame 
Gorski and the disappearance of Shrimp are only 



238 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



incidents." He resumed his pacing of the room, 
" It's another case like that of the Money Machines, 
Sydney. Human life and happiness are pushed 
aside as unimportant because of a few papers and 
figures in lifeless ink." 

Sydney Thames silently withdrew. He knew that 
the man who had picked him up, as a bundle of dirty 
baby -clothes, on the banks of the English river that 
had given him the only name he ever knew, wanted 
to be alone. So he left him to his tireless pacing 
while the wonderful brain behind the high forehead 
figured each step in the problem ; ahgning motives ; 
testing theories. 

When the front-door bell announced the coming 
of Ames, Colton seated himself at the desk, and when 
the secret agent entered there was no inkling of the 
thoughts in the mind of the blind man. 

" There's absolutely nothing in this," began Ames 
apologetically, as he laid the thick envelope on the 
desk. " It's just music, poor stuff, too. Probably 
written by some sentimental amateur who has read 
of Madame Gorski and her recitals, and wants a 
criticism." 

" Such persons usually inclose a long letter of 
pleading," remarked Colton dryly, as he took the 
thin sheets from the big envelope and ran his super- 
sensitive finger-tips over the back of the paper to 
feel the indentations of the pen. " You have no trace 
of the boy, yet % " His tone was almost uninterested, 
and his finger-tips still brushed the back of the 
music sheet. 

" No." Ames shook his head. " The men are 
combing the city. Finding the boy means finding 
those harbour-mine plans, probably." 

Colton's lips tightened. " No, it doesn't," he said 
quietly \ " These are the plans of the location of every 
electrically-operated mine in the harbour and bay." 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



239 



" What ! " Ames fairly shouted the word as he 
leaped to his feet. He jumped to the desk and 
picked up one of the manuscript sheets Colton had 
examined and laid aside. As he stared, the expres- 
sion of incredulity gave way to one of bewildered 
puzzlement. 4 * What do you mean % " he de- 
manded. " There is nothing concealed here. This 
is straight music.' ' 

" It would contain some horrible discords if you 
tried to play it, I imagine, though it was done by a 
man who has some knowledge of composing. But, 
as you said before, any one with eyes would put 
that down as mere amateurishness. Eyes are the 
greatest handicap pure eHminative reasoning has. 
For weeks you have watched Madame Gorski. You 
have had men at her musicales, and have attended 
them yourself, no doubt. To you those wonderful 
affairs were merely a cloak the woman had assembled 
to hide her real purpose for being here. To me they 
were something else. They were part of a carefully 
thought-out plan. She knew that you were watching 
her. She knew that every person who approached 
her and every bit of her mail would be examined. 
But who would suspect a dozen sheets of music 
manuscript % Who but a blind man ! " The faint 
colour of excitement was in his cheeks, the lean, 
cleft jaw was set. " See 1 " He turned over the 
sheet he had examined last. " Every sheet is written 
in five flats, yet in this page alone there are more 
than a dozen sharp accidentals. Three notes out of 
five must be played on the black keys. Every sharp 
and flat on every sheet denotes the placement of a 
blind mine ! Look ! " He snatched up a pencil from 
the desk, located the middle bar in the top staff 
with his finger-tip, and drew down the paper a wide, 
curving line, following the course of his feeling 
finger, to a measure in the lower right-hand corner. 



240 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



" Notice," he observed quietly, " that not one of the 
measures the pencil has touched contains either a 
sharp or a flat." 

" The secret naval lane through the outer 
harbour," whispered Ames, and in his voice was the 
awe that had been there once before. 

" Yes." Thornley Colton leaned back in his chair. 
" You know that the harbour is laid out in half- 
mile squares, subdivided by smaller squares of two- 
hundred-and-eighty-yard mine placements. Take 
the sheets numerically, and draw perpendicular 
parallel lines. Each one of these will represent the 
two-hundred-and-eighty-yard square. The measures 
of the treble and bass clefs placed directly under each 
other will make the half-mile squares. The sheets 
lettered A, B, C should be laid from left to right, I 
imagine, to give the anchorage width. I think a 
line following the staccato notes will give the rough 
shore-line necessary." He lighted a cigarette, and 
his sightless eyes were apparently fixed on the 
ceiling, his thoughts far away. 

Ames lifted his eyes from the papers to the 
impassive face of the blind man. " My God, Mr. 
Colton ! " he cried, and his voice shook with feeling. 
" Do you realise what you've done ? Do you under- 
stand that in ten minutes you have accomplished 
a thing that has baulked every secret agent in the 
country for months ? Do you know that you have 
kept in the hands of this country the greatest naval 
secret we possess " — his voice choked — " the secret 
I was about to let slip through my fingers ? It 
means " 

A wave of the problemist's hand stopped him. 
" It means that my boy is missing, perhaps dead," 
the blind man said dispassionately. " It means 
that the most wonderful woman I ever knew is 
dead. That is all." 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



241 



A look of pity came to thetfa<5e of the secret agent. 
" We will do all we can," he assured. " We will 
find the boy just as surely as we will find the traitor 
who is responsible for these." He picked up the 
precious sheets, and put them carefully in his pocket, 
and buttoned his coat. 

" Finding the traitor should be comparatively 
easy," Colton told him. " Men who have the 
knowledge of music composition necessary to put 
that together are not common in the war depart- 
ment." 

Ames picked up his hat and held out his hand. 
" Believe me, Mr. Colton, Washington will not 
forget this work of yours. I will let you know the 
instant we hear anything. Good day ! " 

Colton sat quiet while the secret agent and Sydney 
Thames left the room. There was no hope in his 
heart. By his showing the government agent the 
secret of the music he had filled his mind with 
thoughts of finding the man who was responsible. 
Every effort of the secret agents would be in that 
direction now. What was a little, red-headed kid 
beside a traitor who would betray his country ? 
Nothing — to the men who were paid to guard the 
secrets of state. 

By silence Colton could have kept the trained 
government -men on the trail of the boy he loved. 
But he had given all that was in him to solve the 
puzzle of the music. The secret agents would go 
on that track now. The police could do nothing 
against men like those of the Gilded Glove. They 
had been content to arrest Monsieur Gorski ; they 
had proclaimed in every morning-paper that he was 
the murderer. They were already lying back on their 
laurels, smug, complacent. No, there was no one 
but the blind man to find The Fee ! 

The long hours of the afternoon passed. Still 
Q 



242 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



Thornley Colton sat in the arm-chair, immovable. 
From time to time Sydney Thames came to the 
doorway, looked in, and went away. He knew that 
the problemist did not want to be disturbed. And 
the blind man's mind through the hours was the 
mind of the men who were behind the gilded glove. 
His mind worked as their minds would work ; 
planning out each step they would take in their 
next move ; leading off into tangents that made 
necessary the discarding of entire trains of thought. 
Patiently he would start again at the beginning, 
finally his brow cleared ; the rigid Hp-lines softened. 

" It is the only way," he murmured, and his hand 
went out to the button on the desk that would 
summon his automobile any hour of the day or 
night. Another button brought Sydney on the run. 

Colton sensed the unasked question and shook his 
head. " No," he anticipated. " I am going out in 
the machine to get a breath of fresh air — alone." 

" But " Sydney started to protest. 

" Alone," repeated the blind man. " I shall not 
be gone more than an hour." 

Sydney Thames went with him to the waiting car, 
and watched with anxious eyes as the stolid Irish 
chauffeur whirled him away. It was less than an 
hour later that the blind man returned. 

" Any news ? " he asked of Thames, as he threw 
off his hat and coat. 

" Headquarters report that they have gone 
through every house in the Russian sections." 

" The one place where he would not be likely to 
be," sneered the blind man. Then weariness made 
his voice heavy. " I'm going to bed, Sydney. I 
don't want to be disturbed under any circumstances. 
Good-night." 

He went to the bedroom that adjoined the library, 
undressed, and in a few minutes was under the covers, 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



243 



sleeping peacefully. Sydney Thames shook his head 
and went to his own room. It was the first time in 
years he had known the blind man to miss an 
evening out. 

When the little clock on the mantel chimed twelve, 
Thornley Colton waked immediately, got up noise- 
lessly, and put on his clothes, all but his collar and 
tie, coat and vest. From his overcoat -pocket he 
took the thing he had gone out for in the early 
evening. It was a small rubber bulb with a long 
rubber tube that had a curved end of hollow, red 
glass. He carefully placed the bulb in his right 
armpit, adjusted the tube down the length of his 
arm, so that the curved end of red glass was concealed 
in his half -shut right palm. He drew the coat of his 
pyjamas over his shirt, and, without even removing 
his shoes, crawled back under the covers. 

The little clock chimed one — two. The calm, 
even breathing of the blind man came regularly. 
The superkeen ears caught the faint sound of an 
opening door. But he did not move. Dead silence. 
He heard the library -door open, and to his nostrils 
came the strong odour of banana oil. His regular 
breathing was the only sound that broke the stillness. 
The library-door closed. Instantly, noiselessly, he 
was out of bed. Seemingly with one motion he was 
in his coat, and vest, and overcoat. His hand 
touched the loaded automatic in his outside pocket. 
He did not even wait to put on the smoked glasses 
his sensitive, sightless eyes needed to protect them 
from the burning light. He did not wait to pick 
up the thin, hollow stick that gave its message to 
his finger-tips. Nor did he pause an instant in the 
library, where the smell of bananas told him that a 
crushed glove of gilt had been laid on the desk. 
Down the stairs he ran with steps that were as silent 
as the night itself. He flung wide the front door. 



244 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



Down the street he heard an automobile door slam ; 
the engine barked. 

" Was I mistaken ? Was it all wrong ? " ran 
the bitter thought through his mind. He had staked 
everything on his ability to anticipate a probable 
plan of action on the, part of the murderers. Then 
an eager look came to his face. 

" Gee, Mister Colton, I'm glad yuh come ! " The 
piping boy's voice came from his side. 

" What is it, Shrimp he asked tensely, 
" Where have you been ? " 

"I been watchin' them guys. I follered the one 
that got in the house, an' I know where dey hang 
out. Gee, Mister Colton, dere's a taxi." 

"Hail it!"; 

The shrill voice brought the cab to the curb. The 
chauffeur nodded at the low-voiced instructions. In 
the darkness Thornley Colton lolled back in the 
cushions. On his face was a curious look of resolu- 
tion, content, victory. His wonderfully-keen ears, 
trained for years to know every sound, every voice 
and inflection of voice, knew that the person at his 
side was not Shrimp ! He had known from the 
first that the voice was that of the man whose 
marvellous mimicry of Hedwig Gorski's voice had 
deceived even her husband. He knew that the 
man beside him was Madame Gorski's murderer. 
Blind, helpless but for the automatic pistol in his 
pocket, he was allowing himself to be taken to the 
men who had left their death-sentence sign on the 
desk in his library ; to the men who had taken the 
boy he loved ! 

One chance in a thousand there had been, and the 
blind man had grasped it eagerly. He knew that one 
false move would destroy even that chance. He 
had realized that hours before. He had not dared 
give an inkling of his plan to a soul ; he had not 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



245 



dared ask for help in the one desperate chance, for 
he did not know how many keen eyes were watching. 
He did not know where he was going, and he could 
not risk having men who would come to his aid 
shadowing him. No, the one chance in a thousand 
could only be taken alone. 

As they rode the voice chattered on, telling of 
trailing the man who had left the glove-prints to a 
little house in Harlem ; of stealing a basement-door 
key from a servant. Thornley Colton complimented 
quietly and often, but his whole mind was fixed 
on the street -corners the cab turned, calculating 
distance, remembering directions. And he knew 
they were not going near Harlem ; but were in the 
dark, winding side-streets of Greenwich Village. 

The taxi came to a stop. " The house is three 
doors down, Mister Colton. We'll chase dis guy an' 
slide up soft." 

Colton took a bill from his pocket, and the hand 
of the murderer snatched it to pay the driver. 
" Dis way," whispered the voice, when the chauf- 
feur had gone. Colton felt a hand lightly touch 
his elbow to guide him. 

Stealthily they went, keeping close to the dark 
shadows of the houses. With a hiss of warning the 
hand drew him against the wall of a house, seconds 
after the blind man had heard the sound of ap- 
proaching footsteps. A policeman passed, swinging 
his stick and whistling softly. 

" Come on ! " The hand pulled him forward 
and down an area-way. He heard a handle turn and 
an iron-grille door open rustily. A key in the hand 
of his guide opened another door, and he felt the 
carpet of the basement-hall under his feet as the 
door closed behind him. 

" Wait here a minute, Mister Colton," came the 
whisper at his side. " I want a scout 'round a little." 



246 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



Obediently the blind man stood in the darkness. 
He heard the light, almost soundless footsteps 
retreating until they died away somewhere in the 
depths of the house. Like a flash he whirled to the 
door. His fingers found the catch, sprung it back. 
The way to escape was open ! Then he crept forward 
into the darkness, every nerve strained to catch the 
slightest warning sound. From the floor above came 
the hoarse murmur of voices, but even his wonderful 
ears could not distinguish words. Then his lips 
tautened to a thin, straight line. A moan, faint, 
quavering, came from the darkness. He knew 
instantly that it was the voice of the boy he had 
come to find. He had heard it before, years ago, 
when the boy had tossed on his bed and dreamed 
horrid dreams of his murdered mother and his 
murderer father, from whom Thornley Colton had 
taken him. 

" Only a few minutes more, kiddie," he breathed, 
then he darted back to the place his guide had left 
him. His superkeen ears had warned him. 

" Dere upstairs playin' cards an' half drunk," 
whispered the piping voice so like that of Shrimp. 
" Got a gun ? " 

Thornley Colton knew that the man was leaning 
forward, watching him in the darkness, but his 
hand touched the pocket that contained the heavy 
pistol, and he nodded. The lips of the blind man 
set even grimmer as he heard the sharp breath- 
intake of satisfaction. So the thousandth chance 
demanded that he lose even the pistol ! Well, he 
would play the game according to their own set rules. 

Up the stairs he followed at the heels of his leader, 
his brain automatically counting the steps and turns, 
as it had been taught to do years before. The 
guide stopped. Colton could hear the faint murmur 
of voices. 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



247 



" Dere's where dey are ! " whispered the voice. 
" Get in before dey know where dey's at." The 
blind man's hand fumbled for the door-handle. He 
flung the door wide. 

The bright lights of the room stung his naked 
eyeballs like a million swords of living fire ; his 
hands went involuntarily to shield them. Instantly 
he felt the fingers of the man who had guided him 
dive toward his pocket, snatch out the pistol. 

" Welcome, Herr Colton ! " The voice came from 
in front of him in heavy German, and each word 
was a sneer. " Fool ! " grated the voice. " Into 
our hands like a baby you come. Three pistols are 
pointed at your heart ! Sit down ! " 

Colton groped forward blindly, his hand found a 
chair, his fingers told him that it was set close to a 
heavy oak table. 

" Goot ! " grunted the man who had spoken. 
Colton knew that he was sitting directly in front of 
him, across the table, The bfind man's ears also 
informed him that on either side of the voice was 
another man. Three against one ! Three with 
loaded pistols against an unarmed man who was 
blind ! 

The door closed softly, and Colton knew that the 
man who had led him was gone. 

" Where's my boy ? " demanded the problemist 
suddenly, fiercely. " Where is he ! " He leaned 
across the table, and the heavy voice commanded 
him to sit back. But Thornley Colton had learned 
the table's width ; a powerful lift of his knee 
had told him of its weight. That table was his 
thousandth chance ! He slumped back in his chair, 
his left hand protecting his burning eyes, his right 
hand half closed on the arm of his chair. 

" You have offended the Gilded Glove," began the 
rumbling German voice. 



248 



TEE SIXTH PROBLEM 



" I understand Russian ! " broke in the blind 
man curtly. 

The man at the right drew in his breath sharply. 
Colton heard the man at the left tilt his chair until 
its back touched a wall. 

" The Gilded Glove has always been sacred to 
traitors," the voice went on, and the language was 
Russian. " But you have learned things that men 
with eyes would never have learned. We have 
watched you with Hedwig Gorski, and we knew that 
you knew. We know that you discovered the secret 
written in the music. But for you, that secret would 
have been our secret. The clutching fingers of the 
Long Arm are always reaching for those who fight the 
Little Father. You fell into our trap. You are a 
brave man. Your hands do not shake, nor does your 
body tremble. Your death will be an easy death." 

" Thanks." The word came laconically from the 
blind man, but every nerve, every sense was alert 
as he mentally pictured the room and its occupants. 
He knew that the heavy table must be less than 
three feet from the wall. The tilted chair had told 
him that. Even the quiet breathing of the men 
located them for the blind man, who was waiting 
the thousandth chance. 

" This chamber is sound-proof. Its secrets are 
always secrets," continued the voice. " We could 
riddle you with bullets, and the world would be 
none the wiser. But we will be merciful." 

Colton heard the click of a bottle-neck on a glass, 
heard the gurgle of the flowing wine, then the glass 
was pushed across the table. 

" Drink ! " ordered the harsh voice. "It is the 
poison that killed Hedwig Gorski ; swift, powerful, 
painless. Drink ! " 

Thornley Colton drew back, a look of horror on 
his face. 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



249 



" That, or the bullets which do not kill pain- 
lessly ! " 

The problemist's right hand reached blindly for 
the glass. His palm almost tipped it as it covered the 
top for an instant ; then his fingers lif ted it. 

" You will not harm my boy ? " he asked, and 
there was a queer chokiness in his voice. 

"Drink! " 

" You will not harm my boy ? " The voice was 
pleading. * 
" I shall count three ! " 

Slowly, his hands shaking so that it required both 
of them to keep the drink from spilling. Thornley 
Colton lifted the glass to his Hps. Six eyes watched 
him, but the nervousness seemed to pass as the 
fire of the wine entered his Veins. He set down 
the empty glass and wiped his lips with his hand- 
kerchief. Narrowly the men watched him. A 
hectic flush seemed to mount the pale cheeks ; the 
lean, cleft jaw was set rigidly. Suddenly Thornley 
Colton bent forward across the table ; his left hand 
gripping its edge. And his voice came to their ears 
like the snap of a steel cable. 

" For every minute of pain you have caused the 
boy I will make you suffer hours of agony ! " he 
swore passionately. The voice became dull, then, 
the words came slowly, haltingly. " Hours — hours 
— for my boy's — hours — hours " 

The half-closed right fist dropped to his chair 
arm ; the left hand dropped limply to his side ; 
his body convulsively turned in the chair so that his 
hip was at the table-edge ; the eyes stared straight 
ahead. 

" It has done its work — as always," whispered 
the man at the left. 

" A pity we could not make of him another 
Boris 1 " said the man at the right. 



250 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



" Put away the needless pistols ! " commanded 
the heavy voice. " Darkness for the sign ! " The 
hand that had. held the pistol reached back of him. 
The fingers pulled a switch, and the lights went out. 
The door opened softly. 

From the darkness a gilded hand came slowly, 
certainly. The fingers touched the throat of the 
blind man 

With every ounce of strength in his powerful body, 
Thornley Colton sent the table crashing on the three 
men, pinning them like rats in the narrow space 
their chairs had occupied, knocking the breath from 
them, half stunning them. So instantaneously that 
it seemed part of the same lightning movement the 
blind man's hand darted out to grasp the invisible 
arm that held the gilded glove. A snapping jerk, 
and Madame Gorski's murderer was on his knees. 
Colton's right fist went out ; the curved glass tube 
in his palm that had sucked up the wine to the bulb 
in his arm-pit while his hands had concealed the 
wineglass, shattered with the impact, cutting his 
tender palm in a dozen places. A choking gurgle 
came from the torn lips of the murderer, and the 
problemist knew that the sudden movement of his 
right arm had sent a spurting stream of the poison 
down the throat of the mimic. He let the lax body 
slide to the floor. A groan came from one of the 
pinned-down men. It was only a matter of seconds 
now. 

The steps of a running man sounded in the hall- 
way. The superkeen ears of the problemist located 
them in the direction of the basement-stairs, and he 
realised that the approaching man must have been 
on the lower floor guarding the boy. That would 
leave the coast clear ! He darted across the room ; 
crouched beside the door. The man who had 
groaned cursed jerkingly, and one of the heavy 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



251 



chairs creaked as he tried to writhe from under the 
big table. A hoarse growl came from the doorway. 
Like a cat, crouching, Thornley Colton spun on the 
balls of his feet and caught the man around the 
knees. A wrestler's twist of his body, and the 
new comer went down. The problemist pulled the 
door closed with a slam and jumped into the 
hall- way. 

A shot sounded in the room, and the blind man's 
lips curved in a grim smile. The way to escape was 
clear ! In the darkness of the closed room the men 
of the Gilded Glove would be for precious minutes 
wholly at sea ; in the darkness of the halls, Colton 
was at home — himself. He knew that he had gained 
several minutes now, because in the dark and the 
confusion of returning senses the men would not 
realise that he had escaped ; every suspicious 
sound made by one of them would mean, to the 
others' bewildered brains, the location of the 
enemy. 

Colton ran down the hall noiselessly ; every nerve, 
every faculty alert to warn him of danger before a 
man with eyes would ever suspect its presence. His 
brain counted the steps without conscious effort. 
At the top of the basement-stairs he paused a 
second. From the room came a crash, and he knew 
the crushing weight of the table had been lifted. 
Then another shot. They were fighting among 
themselves in the darkness ! Down the basement- 
stairs he ran. His wonderful ears told him that no 
other guard was there. 

His hand brushing the wall, as he hurried back 
into the dark lower hall-way, located the door. He 
found the bolt and slid it back. From the corner 
came a faint moan. In a single stride he was across 
the floor. He leaned over a pile of blankets in the 
corner, and his hand brushed the face of the boy ; 



252 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



his fingers felt the warm stickiness of the hair, and 
he cursed the men upstairs. 

" Shrimp ! " he called softly. The boy stirred, 
and his eyes opened as Thornley Colton picked him 
up tenderly in his strong arms. 

" I fought 'em like — the very dickens ! " Shrimp's 
voice was scarcely a whisper, but it took every bit 
of the gameness in the small body to make it even 
that. " They blackjacked me." His body went 
limp. 

Colton ran with his burden down the dark hall 
to the front dooix The confusion upstairs had 
ceased. He heard a door slam ; a rumbling Russian 
curse ; running footsteps. The minutes he had 
counted on had become seconds again ! He 
jerked open the door he had unlatched, swung 
back the iron grille, and took a great gulp of the 
cool night air ; let the wind fan his still-burning 
eyeballs. Running footsteps sounded ; a dozen of 
them. 

" Colton ! My God, Colton ! " It was the voice 
of Ames ; and there were men with him. 

" In the house with the open basement-door ! " 
gasped Colton, and in his voice was a prayer of 
thankfulness for the thousandth chance. " The 
whole crowd ! 99 he finished. 

The running footsteps sounded once more. Ames 
lingered. 

" The taxi-driver put us wise," he jerked out, 
" He knew the boy, and realised there was some- 
thing wrong when the man with you imitated his 
voice. Reported it to the police. I got the tip 
instantly. Called up your house, and Thames found 
you gone. I got half a dozen of my men here in 
taxis." 

" Where are the cabs ? " snapped Colton. " I 
want one. My boy is hurt 1 " 



TEE GILDED GLOVE 



253 



" Around the comer." Ames whistled shrilly. 
" Here comes one. I've got to be with my men 1 ** 
He was gone. 

Colton laid the boy gently on the cushions, and, 
as the taxi started uptown, Shrimp's eyes fluttered 
open. " Gee I " he murmured faintly. " I got m' 
real detective work — that — time — assaults — black- 
jacks " The voice died as unconsciousness 

came again. 

IV. 

The afternoon sun came slantingly through the 
great glass windows, lighting the happy face of the 
blind man and the pale, smiling face of The Fee, as 
he lay in bed, his head swathed in bandages, one arm 
in a sling. 

" I was goin' round, 'cause I couldn't sleep, an* 
I heard somebody open the front door " — Shrimp 
scowled as his voice became weak, and set his teeth 
for a moment. " I thought it was you. Then I 
seen his whole head was covered with a black thing, 
an' there was black gloves on his hands, an' he 
didn't wear no shoes." 

Colton nodded. " So that he could not be seen, 
nor heard, in the darkness. The hood covered every- 
thing but his eyes and lips ; the latter were left free 
so that he could mimic a voice." 

" I watched him sneak into the library an' come 
out. Then I beat it down the backstairs, an' when 
he got in his automobile I was hangin' on the back. 
He musta knew I was there all the time, but he 
never let on. I was scoutin' 'round the house when 
three of 'em jumped me. I guess they knocked me 
out good, for it was a long time 'fore I come round. 
Then a guy I couldn't see came in the dark room 
where I was an' started knockLn' you, I told him 
where he stood, all right." 



254 



TEE SIXTH PROBLEM 



" It was the mimic," Colton explained. " He 
wanted to learn every tone of your voice. " 

" The government agents got every one of them," 
put in Sydney unnecessarily. 

" Yes, and the house has been the scene of many 
crimes. Ames and his men found a lot of valuable 
papers, together with the ringleaders of the Gilded 
Glove. Jones, of the hotel, identified the bearded 
man who did all the talking as the German husband 
who had the rooms. The chair arms didn't protect 
him very much from the falling table, and his three 
broken ribs will keep him quiet for a while. The one 
who posed as his wife, and the third man at the table, 
have bruises and contusions enough to last them a 
lifetime. The murderer of Hedwig Gorski " — 
Thornley Colton paused a minute and went on — 
" was brought around all right by the ambulance 
surgeon ; only a little of the poison went down 
his throat ; but he told his story. He was a 
wonderful boy mimic fifteen years ago. Any sound, 
any voice was as easy for him to learn as names 
would be to you and me. Then the Gilded 
Glove got him. What devilish method they used 
I don't know, but they made him their tool. Boris 
Strevelski forgot that he had ever been anything 
but a dealer of death to traitors ; that he was 
the Hammer of God was the only idea left in his 
mind. But they taught him all languages, and he 
picked them up as the average man would remember 
names. 

" He worked for half an hour to get the pane of 
glass from the window of the Gorski bathroom, and, 
in a skin-tight suit of black silk that covered every- 
thing but his mouth and eyes, he hid behind the coat 
and dress in the closet after putting the poison in the 
tap. He had on the same suit at the house. My 
hands told me that." 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



255 



" But how did you know he would come here ? " 
asked Sydney breathlessly. 

" I risked everything on my mental ability to 
follow the workings of the Oriental mind, ,, Colton 
said slowly. " The Caucasian mind is always con- 
tent with mere killing. But the Oriental mind must 
have the significant ! Think of the risk of staying 
in the Gorski rooms when they knew the poison 
would do its work. But to them the mere death 
was only part ; their whole course of thought 
demanded that the sign be left. 

" I knew it would be the same in my case. So I 
gave them no chance to leave the crushed glove 
anywhere but here ; and I knew they would come. 
I didn't know that they had been watching me for 
weeks because of my friendship with Madame 
Gorski, nor that they had gotten a duplicate key. 
But I was almost at the heels of the stranger. When 
he saw me I knew he would instantly think of 
luring me to my death. The sign had been left, 
and death was next. I knew, also, that he would 
never overlook the opportunity to mimic Shrimp's 
voice, because in the years mimicry has become a 
mania with him. He slammed the door of the car 
in which he came so that I would think he had 
escaped. Then his playing Shrimp's part seemed 
easy and logical. What was there to do but take 
me to the New York headquarters of the Gilded 
Glove ? Following out their mind-processes further, 
I had no doubt that they would give me a chance 
to drink the poison, for that, too, is a peculiar kink 
of the Oriental mind. Hence my precaution. The 
rest was simple." 

" Simple ! " gasped Sydney Thames, and there 
was sweat on his brow. " My God, Thorn, think 
of you, blind, risking yourself alone with those 
men." 



256 



THE SIXTH PROBLEM 



" My blindness was my greatest ally there," 
smiled Colton faintly. " The instant darkness 
came they were helpless, while I was my normal 
self, which I couldn't be in the burning light, but " 
— he touched the alcohol-soaked bandage that 
covered his head and eyes — " the tortures of the 
Inquisition were mild beside that light on my unpro- 
tected eyeballs." 

He patted the hand of the boy gently. " And it 
was Shrimp who led the secret agents, after all," 
he said quietly. " If the taxi-driver hadn't been one 
of the hundred friends he has made around the city, 
there might have been another story to tell. The 
men of the Gilded Glove weren't far behind me." 

The door -bell rang downstairs. " Ames again," 
commented Colton, a trifle wearily, and in a few 
minutes the government agent was ushered into the 
room by John, the butler. 

" We got everything, Mr. Colton ! " he cried. 
" The whole gang is cleaned up. Gorski was released 
from jail to-day, and is going back to Paris. With- 
out his wife he will never bother any one. Even 
the Gilded Glove didn't think him worthy of their 
attention. And those harbour-mine plans ! A 
wonderful piece of work ! Placed in order under an 
onion-skin paper map of the harbour, with the 
staccato-note marks at certain points on the shore 
line, every sharp and flat traced on the map gave, 
as you said, the exact locations of the mines." 

" Have you found the traitor ? " asked Colton. 

" Yes." Ames's voice was sober. " His body was 
found this morning in his office. The pistol he had 
used was beside him. A closed incident." Then 
enthusiasm came to his tone once more. " What 
you have done on this case will never be forgotten, 
Mr. Colton," he said earnestly. " It will not be 
made public, of course, but the secretary of state 



THE GILDED GLOVE 



257 



will write you a personal letter offering you any 
reward you may ask. The president himself will 

tender you a position that " 

Thornley Colton's upraised hand stopped him. 
The blind man turned his sightless eyes toward 
the closed eyes of The Fee, and gently withdrew his 
fingers from the clasp of the small hand, " Hush," 
he said softly. " The boy is sleeping,'* 



B 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 
I. 

His chin resting on his chest, his hands gripping 
the wide -spread leather arms of the chair, the man 
stared at the log fire — fixedly, intently ; as though 
the ceaseless war the flames waged against the 
darkness held him enthralled by its hopelessness. 
The wind, whistling encouragement down the wide 
chimney, caused the fire to leap upward and drive 
the shadows in retreat to the farthest corner of the 
library. For an instant the flames crackled their 
triumph ; then died down. The shadows rushed 
forward, swiftly and silently, to recover the territory 
they had lost. The fire sputtered its chagrin. 

The man in the chair shivered, though his hands 
felt the warmth of the leather arms. For an instant 
the hopeless look went from his eyes ; his chin 
lifted. Then the eyes resumed their staring at the 
flames. " I won't ! " he muttered. " I won't ! 
I'll— — " The thin right fist doubled ; he raised 
it to smite the arm of the chair. In the air it 
unclenched and dropped lifelessly. 

" There must be some way ! " Hope again shone 
in his eyes. The flames, apparently encouraged by 
his spirit, again leaped to their fight with the 
shadows. ' ' There is ! " His voice, low, passionate, 
died suddenly. He jerked his head around the side 



TEE RINGING GOBLETS 



259 



of the high chair, and darted a fearful glance at a 
dark corner. A trembling chill shook his body, and 
his hps formed the silent words : "I mustn't forget 
that devilish thing ! " 

The door opened softly, and the man in the chair 
heard, but he did not move. The impassive-faced 
servant came forward with soundless footsteps. 

" You wish anything, sir % " he asked humbly, 

" Nothing, Paul." 

"A bit more wood on the fire, sir ? " 

The seated man turned his eyes back to the 
glowing logs that had given up their fight with the 
darkness, and whose flames no longer leaped their 
defiance, but spluttered their defeat. 

" I think not," came finally. 

" Your wine, sir ? " 

" At eight, Paul." 

" Yes, sir. I'll remember, sir." The servant 
bowed himself back a step, then stopped. " Miss 
Nadine says as 'ow she 'opes you are quite fit this 
evenin', sir." 

A sudden draft of cold air seemed to strike the 
man, for his body shook and his hands gripped 
tighter on the leather arms. 

" Tell her I feel much better," he lied pitifully, 
moistening his dry Hps with his tongue. 

" I will, sir." The man bowed gravely and with- 
drew, closing the door quietly behind him. 

Silence came again to the room, broken only by 
the crackle of the dying fire that gave to the haggard, 
deep-lined face of the man a pink glow of health 
that belied the hunted look in his eyes, and the fines 
of utter hopelessness around the mouth. For 
minutes he sat, immovable, swallowed in the depths 
of the big leather chair. 

The door opened again, and the sound of it brought 
a new expression to his face ; a curious expression 



260 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



of mingled joy and dread. His thin hands clenched 
as if the very action were intended to brace his 
whole body. Then his lips formed a tremulous smile 
as the golden-haired, pink-cheeked girl ran across 
the room, and flung her arms around his neck. Her 
lips touched his cheek ; she drew back and gazed 
deep into his eyes for an instant before he lowered 
them. 

" Oh, daddy-father," she pleaded. " You mustn't 
worry so ! " She seated herself on the chair-arm, 
her small hand patted his shoulder. " It will all 
come out right," she whispered fondly. 

" Hush ! " he breathed, and she could feel his 
body tremble under her fingers. 

" The curs ! " she said passionately, lifting her 
head to look over the back of the high leather chair 
and gaze into the dark corner, as her father had 
done a few minutes before. 

He lifted a hand and touched her lips warningly, 
but she shook her head away. 

" It's killing you, daddy-father ! " There was a 
sobbing catch in her voice. " You've grown old, 
old, in the past month. Won't you please let that 
wonderful blind man help you ? Oh, daddy-father " 
— both hands were on his shoulders now ; her eyes 
bright with held-back tears, looked into his — 
" think of what he did for Ned — and I love 
you so ! " 

" No, no ! " he choked. " I — he — please don't 
make me talk." The last was a whisper, even the 
girl in the arm-chair barely heard it. 

" I don't care ! " she cried. " I'll " 

From the shadowed shelf over the fire-place came 
the mellow chime of a clock. The girl and the man 
started as though some sudden electric shock had 
passed through them. Her hand clutched at his 
shoulder ; a sob came from her throat. The man's 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



261 



fingers picked at the leather chair-arms ; his dry 
lips moved mechanically as he counted the eight 
strokes of the clock-bell. When the last note had 
died away the girl's hand fell lifelessly from his 
shoulder ; she rose to her feet. 

" You are going to the opera to-night, Nadine ? " 
he asked, trying bravely to keep the quaver from 
his voice. 

" Yes," she said steadily. She bent down to kiss 
him, her hand touched his thin white hair for a 
minute before she turned to go. Half-way across 
the room she stopped, and her little hands clenched 
at her sides as the door-handle turned softly ; but 
she merely bowed bravely and hurried past the 
wooden-faced manservant who entered. 

" Your wine, sir ? " 

The man rubbed his hands together, as though 
warming them in the glow of the logs ; his face was 
hidden in the shadows above. 

"Yes, Paul." 

From the shadow beside the fire-place the servant 
brought a small, round tabouret, and set it beside 
the big chair. 

" Turn me around a bit, Paul. The light hurts 
my eyes." 

Obediently the servant placed the big chair so 
that its side was to the fire-light. The little man was 
completely swallowed up in its depths. Only the 
tip of one slippered foot showed in the ruddy 
crimson that came under the chair. The tabouret 
was in the dark at the side away from the fire. 

" The usual two goblets, sir ? " asked the servant, 
as he swung back the door of the cellaret. 

" Yes, Paul, and a cigar." 

The man placed the two wine-filled goblets on the 
small table, and a few drops of the wine spilled as 
it swayed a trifle on its uneven legs. 



262 THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



" Table seems a trifle wabbly, sir. Shall I put 
something under the legs to steady it ? " 

The seated man merely shook his head and 
stretched forth a hand to lift one of the goblets to 
his lips. Slowly he sipped it while the servant stood 
patiently by with the box of cigars. In the flare of 
the match, held to light the cigar he had selected, 
the servant's eyes, invisible in the shadows above, 
studied every line of the haggard face. But there was 
no commiseration in the studying — only satisfaction 
and triumph. 

, " That is all ; I won't need you again to-night, 
Paul." 

" Very well, sir." The servant bowed and with- 
drew. 

For several minutes the smoke from the unmoving 
cigar spiraled in the darkness. Then the seated man 
turned in the big chair, and the ashes dropped to 
his knee unheeded as he shuddered. His two hands 
on the small tabouret moved it an inch toward him. 
He shook his head, and moved it half an inch to the 
right. The wine in the full glass was spilling, and he 
poured half of it into the other goblet. Apparently 
the uneven legs that caused the tabouret to teeter 
back and forth bothered him, for he spent several 
minutes setting it to his satisfaction. Then he 
carefully placed the two goblets in the exact centre, 
so that the rims touched, and leaned back in the big 
leather chair. 

One hand showed on the arm-chair nearest the fire ; 
the other was in the shadow. Suddenly the two 
glasses clicked together with a musical, ringing sound, 
as though his hand had nervously fallen on the table 
and caused it to sway. Then his shaking fingers on 
the tabouret-edge caused a musical soothing jingle of 
the egg-shell rims. The sound seemed to please him, 
for the chnk-click-tap-tap-clink kept up for minutes. 



TEE RINGING GOBLETS 



263 



" I won't ! " he cried suddenly, vehemently. 
His trembling fingers made the wine dance in the 
ringing goblets. 

The hand holding the cigar rested on the chair- 
arm, the fingers clenched so that the wrapper almost 
crackled under their pressure. 

" No, no ! Nadine " The moaning voice died ; 

he bent forward in his chair. The slipper that 
showed in the light under the chair lifted, then 
dropped back to its original position. The cigar 
smoke curled upward from the chair-arm, an iri- 
descent ribbon in the feeble glow of the darkness- 
defeated logs. 

Clink ! Clink-clink ! Tap ! Tap-tap ! came the 
ring of the goblets on the tabouret. The clock on 
the mantel ticked off minute after minute. 

Softly, silently the door opened — an inch, two 
inches. From the darkness of the hall outside two 
eyes stared into the darkness of the room. 

The streamer of smoke rose steadily ; the glasses 
still sang their song of nervousness. Suddenly the 
door opened a full half. The owner of the watching 
eyes had smelled burning leather. The servant 
stepped into the room, stumbled over a big chair 
near the door, and swore softly. 

" Do you wish anythink, sir ? " It was the 
respectful voice of the servant. 

The smoke still ascended unwaveringly ; the 
music of the goblets did not cease. But no answer 
came from the big chair. 

The servant approached the chair on tiptoe. A 
sound made him turn toward the door. It was 
swinging open. He walked to it, and stopped it 
before it struck the heavy bookcase, and closed 
it noiselessly. 

" Do you wish anythink, sir ? " he whispered 
again. 



264 THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



The slipper still showed in the ribbon of light. 
The glasses were still ringing. The cigar still burned. 
The man sniffed again, then reached the side of the 
chair in a single bound. 

A curse escaped him ; a deep curse of bafflement, 
rage. 

The chair was empty ! 

On the arm the cigar was burning the leather. 
The empty slipper was just where the foot had been. 
The wine still moved in the now-silent glasses. But 
the man he had left a few minutes before, the man 
whose nervous fingers had caused the glasses to 
ring but a second before, had vanished ! 

Two steps took the servant across the room. A 
snap, and the incandescents sprang to light. The 
big chair by the door, a counterpart of the one at 
the fire-place, was unmoved. Everything in the 
room was as he had left it. But the man was 
gone. 

" Damn him ! " muttered the fellow who had 
been a servant. But he wasn't a servant now. His 
shoulders were hunched aggressively. The wooden 
look had gone. In its place was tenseness, animal 
strength ; the muscles played back and forth under 
the tightly -drawn skin of the cheek-bones. 

" He's gone, chief ! " he said, and his voice was 
low. " How the devil he did it is more than I can 
figure." He ran to the fire-place and knelt on the 
hearth, his sharp eyes studying every inch. And 
as he leaned over the fire he talked : "I watched 
the door every minute. His infernal nervousness 
gave me the willies. I heard the glasses clink till I 
got to the chair, chief — to the chair ! " 

He ran to the high window, and searched every 
inch of the sill and curtains, still speaking in that 
level, even tone : " Get the boys out and cover 
the house ! Spread 'em around the block ! He can't 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



265 



have been gone more than ten minutes. There's 
not a damn' crack in the wall. I know that ! " 

His fingers were running over the bookcases, his 
eyes seeming to bore into their very depths as he 

went on : " The girl's all ready for the opera " 

His keen ears heard footsteps, and his voice changed 
to an agonised wail as the girl entered : " 'E's gone, 
Miss Nadine, 'e's gone ! " 

" Gone ! " she cried, staggering against the chair 
near the door. " Gone ! " she repeated, and her 
voice was scarcely a whisper. 

" I smelled 'is cigar burning the leather. I 
thought as 'ow 'e was asleep." 

She forced her limbs to support her weight across 
the floor. She looked down into the chair where the 
untouched cigar still burned. The opera cloak 
slipped from her shoulders unheeded as she touched 
the tabouret-edge with her fingers for an instant. 
The glasses clinked mockingly. 

" Gone ! " she said again. " He has gone to them 
—at last ! " 

She swayed, fell, sending the tabouret and glasses 
crashing to the floor. The servant leaned over her 
for an instant ; then ran to the corner of the room. 

" Hear that, chief ! " he whispered tensely. ' ' Get 
it ? Rip out the wires when I cut 'em. There'll be 
merry hell around here in a little while ! " 

A gleam of nickel showed in his hand as he thrust 
it behind a high bookcase. Came two sharp clicks, 
and as he turned toward the girl he put into his 
pocket a round, black disc. It was a dictograph. 

II. 

For two hours Nadine Nelson had sat, white- 
faced but steady-voiced, as the three men questioned, 
cajoled, badgered, and threatened. At her right, 



266 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



his chair within a foot of that in which she sat, was 
the man who had posed as a servant. At her left 
was another, just as keen-eyed and alert. Before 
her sat a heavy-chinned, broad-shouldered man 
whose fingers crackled the typewritten sheets as he 
jerked out his questions. The girl's eyes met his 
fairly, unwaveringly. Yet she knew he was Chief 
Whittson, of the United States secret service. 

" You know that, for months, hundreds of 
thousands of dollars have been passed through the 
agency of your father's bank ? " he snapped. 

" I know nothing," she said unemotionally. 

" Then why did you say " He referred to 

the typewritten sheets : " ' It will all come out 
right? ' " 

' ' Because it will," she replied steadily. 

The men at her sides snorted impatiently. 

" Did you know that your father was the head of 
the best-organised counterfeiting gang in the 
country ? " jerked out the secret-service chief. 

Her eyes did not flinch for an instant. " I knew 
nothing." 

" Where is your father, Miss Nelson ? " 
" I do not know." 

" Then why did you say " — his forefinger punched 
the typewritten page viciously, and in his voice was 
snarled impatience — " ' he has gone to them at 
last.' Who did you mean ? " 

" I know nothing," came the unvarying answer 
she had given a hundred times before. 

" Why didn't you call in the police when you 
knew that your father had disappeared ? " 

For the first time a shade of expression came to 
the girl's face ; her hps curved in contempt. ' ' Be- 
cause I knew that the police could do no more than 
the secret-service men of the United States." There 
was more than a tinge of contempt in her voice. 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



267 



Chief Whittson straightened back in his chair. 
" Did you know that your servant was not what he 
pretended to be ? " he demanded. 

" Yes," she said defiantly. " We knew from the 
first that he was a spy." 

The former servant leaped to his feet, face red 
with rage. " So that's why you took it so cool, eh ? 
That's why you didn't raise the fuss I expected ? " 
he flared. " And you went to your own room and 
locked the door to cry. And I was sorry for you. 
Me ! A wise guy ! Some — clever — actress ! " 

She shrank back before the lashing sneer in the 
words. 

" Then you knew of the dictograph ? " demanded 
the chief, instantly alert to take advantage of the 
first signs of break -down. 

" Yes," she whispered tremulously. " We knew, 

and we " she stopped, her breath catching 

suddenly. 

" ' We,' " repeated the chief sharply. " What ? 
What ? " 

Her Hps quivered piteously. The nerve that had 
forced her frail woman's body to bear the rack for 
hours was breaking. 

" What did you do ? Tell me ! " he commanded 
viciously. 

" Don't you think you've gone quite far enough 
on that line ? " The quiet, even voice of the man 
in the door-way caused the two men at the girl's 
side to leap to their feet, and the chief to jerk his 
body erect. " If I were you, Miss Nelson," the man 
in the door-way spoke to the girl, and his voice was 
gentle, " I would answer only courteous questions." 

His white face, with its lean, cleft chin, and thin, 
firm Hps, lighted in a wonderful smile of encourage- 
ment ; the hand that was not holding the slim stick 
brushed back from his high forehead the hair whose 



268 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



whiteness was accentuated by the great blue circles 
of the tortoise-rimmed library glasses. 

" Who are you ? " demanded the chief, but there 
was no bluster in his tone. The manner he had 
assumed for the girl had dropped like a mask. He 
was the calm, alert detective once more, and his keen 
judgment told him instantly that the new comer was 
not the type to bluff. 

Before the man at the door -way could answer, a 
youth rushed past him to the girl's side. 

" I found him, Nadine," he cried joyously. 
" Here's Mr. Colton. He'U find uncle." 

" Thank God ! " breathed the girl, and her body 
relaxed. 

Thornley Colton turned his head to speak over his 
shoulder. " A glass of water, Sydney. Quickly ! " 

" So you're Thornley Colton, eh % " The secret- 
service chief eyed him sharply. " I understand 
ou've done some rather remarkable work — for a 
lind man." 

Colton smiled, then stepped aside as his black- 
haired, apple-cheeked secretary came in with a glass 
of water. The girl's eyes fluttered open, and the 
blind man realised that she needed time to regain 
her scattered senses. 

" You have the average person's idea of the blind, 
chief," he said. " And the average person gets his 
notion from the blind beggar on the street-corners 
who hobbles along led by a small boy and a dog, 
and taps every inch of the side -walk with a heavy 
cane. Very few realise that is mostly for effect. 
Fewer still know that in New York there are nearly 
two hundred sightless men and women who go to 
business every day without help or guidance. Some 
of the highest-paid private secretaries and steno- 
graphers in the country are blind. Several of the 
blind proof-readers are famous. And for many years 



TEE RINGING GOBLETS 



269 



the court of last resort in the dead-letter office at 
Washington was a blind man. He was the most 
expert ever employed by the government, and could 
read with his supersensitive finger-tips addresses 
that had passed through the hands of the keenest- 
eyed readers of illegible writing in the world. So 
you see, the blind are not so helpless as one might 
imagine. Ah, Miss Nelson, do you feel better ? " 

" Yes." She looked up at him with a curious 
expression in her eyes. It was the look of a child 
who has sought a protector only to be a little 
frightened at the result. But she smiled bravely. 
" You did such a wonderful thing for Ned " — she 
rested her hand fondly on her cousin's arm — " when 
he was arrested for the murder of the girl in the 

theatre, and I thought " Again came the look 

that was almost fear. 

" I will do my best," promised the blind man. 
" Do you mind my hearing the story from Chief 
Whittson— his side of it ? " 

" No," she said, with only a bit of nervousness 
in her voice. 

Whittson smiled quizzically. This blind man 
might be interesting. On his face and the faces of 
his men there was no doubt of the outcome. They 
were government men, trained, efficient ; the 
interloper was an amateur — and blind. 

" We know that Dryden F. Nelson was the biggest 
passer of counterfeit money in the country ! " 
began the chief. " He is the cleverest of them all. 
Who would suspect the bank of a man like Nelson 
as a clearing house for the cleverest counterfeits ever 
made ? The scheme was wonderful, the only organ- 
ised gang in the country who could pass * queer ' 
at its face value was that of this girl's father. How 
long it's been going on we don't know. The bills 
have the ' feel,' something no other counterfeiter 



270 TEE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



has ever been able to get. It was only within the 
past six months we traced the bills to their source. 
And that was Nelson's bank ! For six months we 
have tried to locate the plant, and failed. For the 
past three weeks my man here has been in the 
house, and there has been a dictograph in the 
library." 

" And you discovered nothing 1 " 

" Nothing except to make morally certain his 
guilt. And he knew we were closing in. He was 
frightened stiff ! Now we find out that the girl, 
here, was wise. She's fooled us right along. We 
never suspected that she was one of the gang." 

The girl cowered in her chair. " I'm not," she 
faltered. " It isn't true." 

" Now Nelson's slipped through our ringers," went 
on the chief relentlessly. " Just when we had him 
worked up to a confession. He got out of that room 
in some devilish way." 

" I've got the facts of his disappearance," put in 
Colton. 

" So have we!" snapped the chief. " Within 
ten minutes of the time he went, every inch of this 
block was covered, and to-day ten thousand police 
and two hundred secret-service men are scouring 
the city for him. He can't get out of it, and he can't 
stay in it — long." 

" Why didn't you arrest him before if you were 
so certain of his guilt ? " 

" Because we wanted his pals ! We wanted to 
locate the plant ! And he went while Jim was 
watching the door every minute ! While my ears 
were glued to the dictograph-receivers and my 
pencil taking every word down in shorthand." 

" You heard nothing ? " 

" After Jim brought the wine there wasn't a 
sound but the infernal ringing of the two glass rims 



TEE RINGING GOBLETS 



271 



on the teetery tabouret he insisted on having beside 
his chair." 

Colton looked up with sudden interest. " Did 
you ever hear those glasses ring before ? " 

" Every night at eight, when Jim here served 
his wine." 

" What other time did he have wine served ? " 

The former servant answered : " He only had it 
at eight in the library, and he wanted it on the 
minute." 

" Significance — somewhere," mused the problem- 
ist. For several seconds there was silence as his slim 
cane idly tapped his shoe-sole. 

Suddenly the girl sat rigid in her chair. " I 
can't!" she cried. " Oh, please! Please! I can't!" 

The expression on the blind man's face was the 
only one that did not change. The three secret- 
service men looked the amazement the sudden 
irrelevant words had caused. The youth who was 
kneeling at the girl's side gazed at her in wonder. 

" The truth will help us all, Miss Nelson," said 
Colton gently. 

But she paid no attention to the words. Her 
eyes, widened in fear, were fixed on the shoe of the 
problemist. 

- ' Yes," she said, and her voice was barely a 
whisper. " Every night ! " 

The chief jumped to his feet. " What's that ? " 
he demanded. ' ' What's that?" 

" The one thing you overlooked ; the significance 
of two plus two," declared Thornley Colton. " If 
you will show me the library perhaps I can point 
out some other things that your eyes have missed." 

The girl lifted her bowed head. " Oh, Mr. Colton," 
she pleaded, " do not show them — you don't know 
what it means ! " 

The blind man went to her side, and put his hand 



272 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



gently on her shoulder. " It is necessary," he said, 
and his voice was tender. Then, to the chief : "If 
you will lead the way." 

Chief Whittson rose, and jerked his thumb 
toward the girl as she buried her head in her arms. 
One of the men nodded. She was to be guarded 
every minute. 

" I'll stay here," whispered Sydney Thames, as 
Colton passed him. The black-haired secretary, 
tender-hearted, deifier of all women, was going to 
guard the girl against further badgering. 

The government man who had posed as the 
servant opened the door of the library. " This is 
the room," he growled. " There isn't a break in the 
walls. We've gone over every inch." 

Colton's thin cane located the big chair near the 
door. He walked around it, touched its back, the 
walls behind it, and measured the distance to the 
room entrance. On his white cheeks was a hectic 
flush of excitement ; his nostrils quivered like those 
of a hound on the scent. 

" You were watching the door every minute ? " 
His voice was unconsciously sharp. 

"Yes." 

The blind man turned to the chief, a curious 
smile on his face. " This is an instance of the 
blind's superiority. You and your man know that 
there is but one possible way for a man to get out 
of this room. You're as sure of that as you are of 
death. Yet you can't realise that that is the way 
Nelson got out because your eyes deceive your brain 
into thinking it impossible. Sight is the greatest 
handicap pure reasoning has. Even a man with 
eyes instinctively closes them when he is trying to 
figure out some particularly intricate problem. The 
trouble is that you haven't closed your eyes. Nelson 
went out through that door ! " 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



273 



" What ? " The chief and his man chorused it 
blankly. 

The blind problemist did not answer at once. He 
darted across the room. His stick found the chair 
at the fire-place. 

" Nelson wanted you to turn this chair away 
from the fire ? " he said suddenly. 

" How did you know that ? " asked the chief, 
and in his tone was wonder. 

" Because it was necessary for his escape. " The 
words came like staccato notes on a taut wire. " He 
knew that a man was watching that door. He 
didn't know what instant it might open an inch. 
But he knew that with the high sides of the chair 
toward the fire he would be invisible in the depths. 
He pulled his slippers off, and left one so that it 
could be seen — young Nelson, who came to see his 
cousin last night, gave me most of the facts. Then 
he slid from the chair, and crawled across the floor 
to crouch down behind that other big chair near 
the door. From past tests he knew just how the 
servant would enter the room and just what he 
would do. It was the work of an instant to slip 
through the open door as the servant was crossing 
the room toward the fire-place. His stockinged feet 
made his exit absolutely noiseless. The very 
simplicity of the thing would deceive any man in the 
world who could see. Yet you knew it was the only 
way he could have gone ! " 

" I saw the door open ! " gasped the secret- 
service man. " I thought it was a draught." 

" Yes," nodded the blind man, " because your 
eyes saw the cigar-smoke and the slipper. They 
wouldn't let your brain get any idea but that he 
was in the chair." 

" But the very simplicity of that would make 
elaborate preparations necessary," objected the 
s 



274 TEE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



chief. " The thing would have to be timed to the 
instant. Nelson hadn't a chance to communicate 
with any one without our knowledge. Jim, here, 
and the dictograph took care of that." 

Colton's Hps curved in a mirthless smile. " They 
made it possible ! Their very actions prove that 
both Nelson and his daughter knew of the dicto- 
graph. They understood that, so long as you didn't 
suspect they knew, you would take no other precau- 
tions. They knew that you would depend on the 
instrument to hear every word, and on this man to 
see that there wasn't a written word of instruction 
put into their hands. And they fooled you ! Tricked 
you every day ! " 

At the last word he dropped to his knees beside 
the big chair by the fire-place. His supersensitive 
finger-tips brushed the carpet. Back and forth 
they went a dozen times, then stopped. " See 
that ! " he cried. " See that ! " 

The two men leaned forward. For a minute 
they stared. 

" Only a nail-hole through the rug," declared the 
chief. 

" Yes, only a nail-hole," Colton repeated quietly. 
" That's the only thing your eyes can see. But my 
finger-tip felt the point of a nail under the carpet 
and on a level with the floor." 

" Nail ? " repeated the chief dumbly. He had 
forgotten his superior attitude of a short time before. 
The dominant personality of the blind man ; his 
absolute sureness of himself compelled respect, and 
brought a realisation that Thornley Colton was the 
master, he the pupil. 

The blind man walked from the chair. His stick, 
poking in the corner beside the fire-place, found the 
tabouret. With an exclamation of satisfaction he 
pulled it out and touched its edge with his finger-tips. 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



275 



" You spoke of it as being ' teetery.' See how 
finely it is balanced on the two legs that are a fraction 
of an inch longer than the others. And see here ! " 
His stick fell to the floor as he used both hands 
to turn it upside-down. The two secret-service men 
saw that all four legs were tipped with metal balls. 
" See the scars of the nail -point on the balls of the 
short legs ? " cried Colton. He took his knife from 
his pocket, and tapped with the blade. A low, 
musical click-click-click that could be heard dis- 
tinctly by the men resulted. " Hear that ? " 
he demanded. 

" What does it mean ? " The chief made no effort 
to keep the bewilderment from his voice. 

" It means that under the floor, and under that 
nail -hole in the rug, is a finely-adjusted magnet with 
a nail-pointed plunger in the centre of the coil. 
That's how Nelson beat your dictograph ! That's 
how he beat your spy. Just as the girl inside 
understood the Morse messages I tapped with my 
cane." 

" Telegraphy ! " gasped the chief. " Nelson was 
chief staff -telegrapher in the army for years." 

The blind man nodded. " The table was set 
here at eight because that is the time the person 
at the other end would be ready to send the mes- 
sages. Nelson adjusted the tabouret so that one of 
the short legs would be directly above the magnet- 
plunger, which was as sensitive to the touch of the 
telegraph-key sending the current through the 
magnet -coils as the most delicate instrument in the 
world. To the trained operator who has learned to 
take a message from any single instrument in a 
room where a thousand others are clattering away, 
the click of the plunger against that hollow metal 
ball would be as easy to read as print to the average 
man. But ordinarily the dictograph would also 



276 TEE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



hear. That's why the goblets were placed rim to 
rim — so that the ringing would drown the other 
sound over the wires of the dictograph, or to a man 
listening at the door. Acoustics would take care of 
that. The dot-dash of the magnet-plunger could 
not be heard five feet away, though the man in the 
chair could get every word." 

" By God, that's clever ! " There was admiration 
in Chief Whittson's tone. " Pull back that chair, 
Jim ! We'll get the rug up and see the thing ! 
We'll follow those wires and land the whole gang." 

He stopped as Nadine Nelson entered the room. 
She wasn't the sobbing girl they had left who now 
entered ; but a white-cheeked, white-lipped woman 
who did not speak until she had crossed the room 
and stood before the chief. 

" I am the ' gang ' you speak of," she said quietly. 
" The wires go to my room ! " 

HI. 

Calmly, disdainfully, the girl stood at the door of 
her room, and watched the secret-service men search 
it with no regard for care. At her side stood her 
cousin, looking on helplessly. His boyish protests 
had been stilled by a terse " Shut up ! " from the 
chief. At the other side of the girl, his face black 
with a scowl, and his hands clenched at his sides, 
stood Sydney Thames. To the soft-hearted Sydney 
no crime was so great as that of causing a woman 
pain. So he gritted his teeth, and darted murderous 
glances at the secret-service men, and looks of plead- 
ing at the blind man who leaned against the wall, 
apparently watching the searchers. 

The girl had shown them the room. She had 
flung open the door of the closet, and cleverly 
concealed behind hanging clothes they had found a 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



277 



telegraph-key on a small shelf. They had pulled 
out the wires, and found they led to the magnets 
in the library. Now they were beginning a systematic 
search of the room — and finding nothing. The girl 
had evidently told the truth. She, and only she, 
could have sent the messages. 

" Where did you learn telegraphy ? " demanded 
the chief suddenly. 

" I can't remember when I didn't have a key to 
play with," she answered coolly. "Father was an 
expert telegrapher for years, and he taught us almost 
before we could read and write." 

" ' Us ? ' " snapped out the chief. 

" My brother and me," she answered, and the 
ears of the blind man, trained to interpret every 
inflection of tone, caught the sudden forced 
note. 

" Where is your brother, Miss Nelson ? " he 
asked. 

" He died ten years ago, in the tropics," she 
answered, and there was a curious break in her voice. 

" And you left the library every night at eight so 
you could send your father messages ? " asked the 
chief sarcastically. 

" Yes. We did not dare talk because of your spy. 
And his eyes were never off my father." 

" Well," the chief's tone was even more sarcastic 
than before, " you might have found an easier way." 

She did not answer, but watched Thornley Colton 
as he stepped across the room to the closet. For a 
minute he poked inside with his cane, moving the 
hanging clothes away from the telegraph-instrument. 
He leaned over it, and seemed to be examining 
it intently. There was a frown of puzzlement on 
his forehead as he straightened up. It disappeared 
almost instantly, and in its place came a look of 
sudden enlightenment. 



278 THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



" Did you ever smoke South American cigarettes 
with licorice-pectoral papers, Miss Nelson ? " he 
asked. 

"No, never ! " She tried to make the denial 
indignant, but Colton's superkeen ears caught the 
false note instantly, as did the keen-eyed chief of 
the secret service. He opened his mouth to ask a 
question, but the blind man forestalled him. 

" The next house is built right against this one, 
isn't it, chief ? " 

" Yes, but the crazy Frenchman next door is 
absolutely above suspicion. We looked up his whole 
life's history. He's a semi-invalid and nutty. He 
has a pet bear ; also two servants to take care of 
the animal." 

" Crazy, eh ? " muttered Colton. He hurried 
across the room, his cane locating every piece of 
furniture. He stopped before the bureau, and 
leaned forward toward a drawer-pull. An instant 
he paused, and in that instant came the betrayal 
he had hoped to bring from the girl. 

" Don't, please ! " She stopped suddenly, biting 
her lips until the blood came. 

Colton straightened up ; his lips set grimly. 
" Pull out the bureau, and you'll find an opening 
into the house of the crazy Frenchman," he said. 

" What ? " The chief jumped across the room, 
and pulled out the heavy piece of furniture. Behind 
it was a jagged hole that a crouching man could 
go through with ease. 

The two secret-service men jumped through the 
opening, but the chief paused. " How did you 
know that ? " he asked wonderingly. 

" Because the clothes in the closet held the faint 
licorice odour of the pectoral cigarette papers that 
South Americans affect. Therefore some man must 
have been sending those messages. It wasn't a 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



279 



man in this house. There had to be an entrance — 
and I tricked the girl into telling me that it was 
concealed behind the bureau. It had to be in this 
room because the message-sender wouldn't risk 
entering another to get where the telegraph-key 
was ! " 

The girl leaned back against the wall, and a sob 
came from her lips. "Oh, why did I ask Ned to 
find you ! " she cried. " Their eyes could have 
seen nothing, and you " 

" It was necessary, Miss Nelson ! " The gentle- 
ness that had been in the blind man's voice down- 
stairs was missing now ; it was brusque, sharp. 
" Better have one of your men remain here, chief," 
he said, and there was no mistaking his meaning. 
" I'd like to go through that house.'' 

The chief looked at him curiously ; then, with the 
docility that came to most men when the blind 
man advised or ordered, he whistled sharply. One 
of the men returned. 

" Stay here ! " commanded the chief, and he 
stepped aside as the blind man bent low and entered 
the next house. The chief followed. 

" What do you know about the occupant here ? " 
Colton asked the chief as he walked around the 
room, his thin cane locating furniture again, and 
giving his brain a mental picture of the whole 
chamber. 

" He's lived here for some time. We looked him 
up from A to Izzard, also his three servants. About 
six months ago, it appears, he bought a pet bear, 
a nasty beast, and sometimes takes him out. Attracts 
quite a lot of attention because the old man wears 
a huge fur coat that makes him look like the animal's 
big brother." 

" And because every man in your business thinks 
the crook is always seeking cover there would be no 



280 THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



suspicion of a man who courts attention by means 
of keeping a pet bear. Clever game enough to throw 
any man that had eyes off the track ! " 

" Oh, the Frenchman's on the level," resented the 
chief. " He's getting worse, failing fast. Anybody 
can see that. Doctor comes twice a day to see 
him." 

" And he comes every night about eight o'clock ! " 
declared Colton suddenly. " He's the man that's 
been sending those messages. He's the chief of the 
gang you've been trying to locate so long. He must 
be, or he'd stay here all the time. He has to attend 
to the outside work while the men here do the actual 
counterfeiting. And it was never suspected because 
all you could see was a pet hear ! Look ! " He pulled 
open the drawer of a dresser. " Here's a dozen 
cigarette ends, all of pectoral paper and Brazilian 
paper. The doctor smoked them here the times he 
had to wait for eight o'clock and the time to talk 
to Nelson." 

"By Jove! You're " 

" Hey, chief ! " The cry came from downstairs. 

" It's Jim. He's found something ! " The chief 
started toward the door and stopped. " Do you 
want me to guide you ? " he asked. 

" Go ahead ! " Colton said dryly. " My ears will 
follow your footfalls." 

' ' This way, chief ! Quick! " The voice directed 
them to the kitchen. The chief stopped with an 
ejaculation of amazement at the door. 

The secret-service operative who had entered the 
house first was lifting an unconscious man from a 
heavy wooden chair. On the floor were the cut 
ropes that had bound him, and the wadded hand- 
kerchiefs that had prevented outcries. 

" The Frenchman ! " gasped the chief. " He's 
got to talk ! Lay him down, Jim ! " 



TEE RINGING GOBLETS 



281 



The Frenchman groaned feebly as they put him 
on the floor, and choked when a pocket flask was 
held to his hps. 

" Mon Dieu ! " he moaned weakly. Then his 
dazed brain realised that men were standing over 
him. " Pleeze stop ! I do nozzing ! " he cried 
supplicatingly. 

" We are friends — gendarmes." Chief Whittson 
said the words slowly and distinctly, so that the 
man could understand. " Who did this ? " 

The fear went from the Frenchman's eyes. " My 
servants," he whispered hoarsely. " Zay have kep' 
me prisoner for mont's ; ever since my old servants 
go an' zay come." 

" Damn ! " jerked out the chief. " They've 
tricked us right along. We looked up the old 
servants' records, and didn't suspect for an instant 
the impersonation. Where did they go ? When ? " 

The Frenchman fell back, his eyes closed 

" I think I can answer the ' when ' part of that 
question," put in Thornley Colton, as he appeared 
at the doorway. ' ' I apologise to the man here for 
the things I said upstairs. But even I didn't give 
the master counterfeiter credit for such diabolical 
ingenuity as this. The fake servants left the minute 
you entered Nelson's house to question the girl. 
And the man that went with them as the French- 
man was Dryden F. Nelson. That's the only way 
he could go ! " 

The Frenchman stirred, and tried to lift his head. 

" Zat is right," he gasped chokingly. " He " 

His eyes closed. 

" Get an ambulance, Jim I " ordered the chief. 
" This man's in bad shape. Get the boys from 
outside ! Put two on the trail of the carriage. 
Nelson and his gang won't get far. Bring the others 
in to search the house ! " The man darted out, and 



282 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



the chief picked the invalid up in his strong arms 
and carried him gently to a couch in the dining- 
room. 

The Frenchman moaned, and a shudder shook his 
body. " Don't make ze bear hurt me ! " he cried 
weakly. " Don't knock ze glasses togezzer and make 
him mad-crazee." He lapsed back into uncon- 
sciousness. 

The chief looked at Colton significantly, but the 
blind man only nodded. 

" But how did old man Nelson ever get a chance 
to get in here % " puzzled the chief. 

" He didn't ! " Colton's voice was sharp. " The 
man who posed as the doctor is the ringleader." 
There came a ring of menace in his tone. " I'll find 
him ! I know him ! " 

" You know him % " The chief did not even nod 
to the three men who entered the room and stood 
respectfully by for orders. 

" Yes ! He's tanned a dark brown, an expert 
telegrapher, thirty-five years old, a man who likes 
to pet and fondle a bear, and his first name is Joe. 
There are a few other details I'll give you when the 
proper time comes." 

" Great Scott ! " Amazement, incredulity were 
in the chief's voice. He turned to one of his men. 
" Was the doctor here last night, Tom ? " he asked. 

" We saw him coming out a minute before we 
got the alarm from you, chief. Said good evening, 
and told us it was only a matter of days for the old 
guy here." 

" Eyes attach no significance to things they have 
seen a dozen times before," Colton observed. 

The chief turned to him again. " Where did you 
get those facts % " he demanded, with the brusque- 
ness of chagrin in his voice. 

" The Brazilian tobacco and pectoral papers told 

/ 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



283 



me he had spent years in South America. Naturally 
he'd be tanned a dark brown. The fact that he must 
be an expert telegrapher is obvious. I know that 
he is thirty-five years old because I know that he 
is fifteen years older than Nadine Nelson. How 
I knew that you'll know later. This told me his 
name — and another fact." The blind man held out 
a charred fragment of paper scarcely two inches 
square, a deep brown in colour from heat and smoke. 
" The fact that the man you want takes pleasure 
in fondling and handling a bear my keen sense of 
smell told me. The bear-fur odour is unmistakable 
and clings to a thing for hours. It was on the hand- 
kerchief in the kitchen, and in the corner of the 
linen was the initial J ! " 

" It's impossible to decipher a word of this ! " 
protested the chief, looking up from the charred 
fragment of paper. 

" With eyes — yes. But my finger-tips found the 
tracery of that name, even though the ink had 
entirely disappeared ! The pen-ridges remain, and 
would remain until the paper was consumed." He 
changed the subject suddenly. " There comes the 
ambulance. I want to go up and see the girl again." 

" I'll go with you." Chief Whittson's tone was 
curiously humble. He turned to give curt orders 
to the men, and followed the blind man out of the 
room. 

Despite the minutes that had passed, Nadine 
Nelson was just where they had left her. The 
secret-service guard sat easily on a gilt chair. 
Sydney Thames and the girl's cousin were alter- 
nately pleading with her to sit down. As the chief 
and Thornley Colton stepped into the room her teeth 
gripped her lower Hp, and her hands clenched 
tighter at her sides. 

" Who is the man who has been coming into this 



284 



TEE 8EVENTE PROBLEM 



room every night to send those messages ? " Thorn- 
ley Colton's voice was hard, stern. 

The face of the girl went white at the cruelty of 
it. Sydney Thames took a half step forward, and a 
gesture of the blind man stopped him. 

" Who is he % " snapped the blind man again. 

She raised her head to look straight into his 
sightless eyes. 

" My husband ! " she answered defiantly. 

" That isn't true ! " The words came like the 
lash of a whip. 

" Thorn ! " In Sydney Thames's voice was agony 
that the man he loved could say such a thing to a 
woman. 

" And you were the man I thought could help 
me ! " Scorn, bitterness, self -accusation were in 
the vibrant voice of the girl. " You're worse than 
those curs who listened to every word ! You've 
killed my father ! If I were a man I'd kill you — 
even though you are blind I " 

The last words came through her clenched, white 
teeth, and she advanced half a step, so that her 
hot breath reached the face of the blind man. But 
he only idly twirled his slim cane and looked down 
at her with a tolerant, amused grin that was mad- 
dening. 

"You'll talk!" he promised curtly. " She'll 
talk in jail, chief ! " 

" I wouldn't talk if you tore me to little pieces ! " 
she cried vehemently. 

Colton did not answer ; he nodded curtly to the 
chief, and with a " Come, Sydney ! " he hurried 
from the room, and from the girl who stared straight 
ahead of her with dull, fixed eyes. 

Sydney Thames followed him down the stairs 
silently. In the lower hall he spoke. " God, Thorn, 
that was barbarous ! It almost made me forget " 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



285 



" Find the telephone and get me the number of 
the United Fruit Company," ordered the blind man 
sharply. 

Without a word Thames found the 'phone in an 
alcove of the hall, and gave the number to Colton. 

" What boat sails for South America to-day ? " 
asked the problemist when the connection had been 
established. " The Carracas ? Is there a bear con- 
signed on that boat ? Hasn't arrived yet ? The 
sailing's at five ? Thank you ! " 

As he hung up the receiver the angry boy's tone 
of Nadine Nelson's cousin came to them indistinctly. 
Sydney Thames jumped as though a pin had jabbed 
him. When he spoke to the blind man there was 
a look on his face that had never been on it before. 

" Thorn," he said, and there was a break in his 
voice, " you've been the only father I ever knew, 
but I won't leave that girl to the mercy of those 
police brutes ! " 

" This is no time for sentiment ! " snapped 
Colton. 

" It is time for good-bye, then ! " Sydney Thames, 
the colourless, the characterless, the counter of steps 
for the man who had picked him up, a bundle of 
baby-clothes on the banks of the English river that 
had given him the only name he ever knew, held 
out his hand. 

The blind man's hps tightened ; he ignored the 
outstretched hand as he pulled on a glove. " Make 
it auf wiedersehen" he said wearily. " Shrimp and 
I are going to catch the boat for Brazil at five o'clock!' 

IV. 

The Fee, red-haired, freckle-faced boy, who had 
become a member of the Colton household as the 
blind man's only pay for solving a particularly 



286 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



baffling murder case, eased his plaster-encircled arm 
on the rail of the Carracas, and watched with all the 
power of his round blue eyes the lowering of the big 
cage on the forward deck. As it swung for an 
instant on a level with the promenade deck on which 
they stood, the boy caught a glimpse of the shaggy 
animal under the canvas protecting-hood that 
covered the top and fitted tightly halfway down the 
sides. 

" Gee, Mister Colton, it's certain'y got some claws 
on its feet ! " observed the boy admiringly. A hitch 
of the rope jarred the cage, and brought forth a 
deep growl that could be heard above the creaking 
of ropes and the squeaky wheels of the stevedores' 
trucks as they rushed the last few cases of freight on 
deck. " There she bumps ! " cried the boy as the 
cable touched the deck. 

Then came a shriek of pain. " Gee whiz ! " 
gasped the boy, and the blind man's cane felt him 
jump a foot. " One of the workin'men bent down 
to get the rope off the bottom of the cage, and the 
bear reached under the canvas, tore his arm with its 
claws. Darn it, but he's wicious ! " 

The bawling voice of an officer broke in : " Here, 
you men that own that bear ! Unsling the cage ! " 

Three ragged, dark-skinned men jumped to the 
cage, and unslung the tackle ropes without arousing 
even a deep-throated growl from the animal. 

The tense look left Thornley Colton's face as he 
heard the block slip to the deck, and for the first time 
in hours there came the slightest trace of satis- 
faction in the curve of the thin Hps. He was right ! 
Once more he had risked everything on his judgment 
and his wonderful mental ability to find logic in 
seeming chaos by following to their end the mind 
processes of men against whom he was pitted. 

The proof had come with the shriek of the clawed 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



287 



stevedore. Thornley Colton's whole mind had been 
concentrated to catch one other sound among the 
multitude of noises. He had heard it and recognised 
it — the musical clink of glass on glass — the ring of 
a goblet ! That had been the thing that had aroused 
the fury of the bear at exactly the instant that the 
workman was within reach of the tearing claws. 
That was the thing that had sent Dryden F. Nelson's 
daughter to jail, and had caused Sydney Thames to 
renounce the man who loved him. 

" I'll bet nobody but them guys that own the 
bear '11 go near him after this," observed the boy 
sagely. 

" I don't think they will," the blind man said 
grimly. " Let's take a walk around." 

The boy's eyes squinted along the deck from his 
feet to the rail at the other side. " It's ten steps," 
he calculated. " They's a man an* a fat woman five 
ahead lookin' down at the front deck, an' at the other 
rail there's a guy in a chair readin' a paper. Yuh 
gotta step out a bit for him." 

" All right," nodded the blind man, as he started. 

The boy walked at his side, and he avoided the 
man and the woman, but his foot seemed to slip 
at the steamer chair, and he fell sprawling into the 
lap of the seated man, sending the thin glass he had 
held in his hands behind the paper in a hundred 
pieces to the deck. 

" What the devil ! " snapped the hoarse voice of 
the man, as he angrily brushed away the sparks of 
fire that had fallen on his coat when the black-brown 
cigarette had fallen from his Hps. 

Instantly Colton was on his feet, apologising. " I 
am blind ; I made a false step," he said contritely. 

" Oh, all right," growled the man ungraciously. 

The problemist started again on his walk. The 
grim lines had returned around his thin-lipped 



288 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



mouth, but there was no other change in the blind 
man's expression, not even triumph. Yet he had 
located the man he wanted ; the man who had fooled 
the entire secret service of the country for months ! 
Reasoning had done it ; the pure ehminative 
reasoning that was made possible by his lack of 
sight. The man into whose lap he had just fallen 
was the one who had aroused the bear's anger with 
the tap of his glass. He was the man whose pectoral 
cigarette papers and tobacco had scented the closet 
at the Nelson home. And he had recently handled 
a bear ! 

As his brain worked at lightning speed behind his 
high, white forehead, the blind man walked with the 
boy aimlessly around the decks, hardly hearing 
Shrimp's delighted chatter. The Carracas was in 
mid-stream now, her nose pointed toward the 
Narrows. Most of the passengers had gone to their 
state-rooms, and the steam hissed from the winch 
cylinders forward as the last pieces of cargo were 
lowered into the hold. The blind man's ears were 
strained to catch each sound, or suspicion of sound 
that would tell him the things he could not see, and 
his brain counted the steps, measuring distance, 
memorising directions as years of training had 
taught it to do. Suddenly Colton realised that some 
one was following them, watching every move. A 
growingly familiar furtive footstep every little while 
as the shadow quickly dodged, whiffs of the Brazilian 
tobacco smoke wafted to his nostrils on sudden 
gusts of wind, told him more than eyes could have 
told. His fall, crude because of its necessity, had 
aroused the other man's suspicion. 

" Show me our stateroom, Shrimp," he said 
finally. " Then you can come up on deck again. 
I'll remember all the steps." 

" Gee ! " grinned the boy, in huge relief, " I'm 



TEE RINGING GOBLETS 



289 



glad I don't have to stay down there. I wanta 
watch that little yacht that's comin' out." 

Colton nodded. He knew why the " little yacht " 
was coming out. He knew she should be flying a 
flag with perpendicular red stripes — the flag of the 
revenue service. And he knew that on board her 
was Chief Whittson and his men, who awaited his 
signal. 

The boy proudly opened the door of the little 
white room, and Colton closed it behind him. "Wait 
a minute, Shrimp," he said quietly. From his pocket 
he took a memorandum book and pencil. For a 
minute he wrote, then he handed the torn-out leaf 
to the boy, who read, with widening eyes : 

If you miss me for fifteen minutes, or see me on deck with the 
man I fell over, run to the wireless house and give the operator 
this message : John Jones, 56 Cedar Street, New York. Close, 

Payton. 

" Gee ! " whispered the boy joyfully. " I knowed 
it was a case ! I knowed you didn't mean what you 
said about not lettin' me in on any more when I 
broke this arm. Gee ! " 

" Go up on the deck and see all the sights you can., 
Shrimp," smiled the blind man. " See you later." 

The problemist sat down on the edge of the 
brass bed to go over the situation again and 
make sure that there was not a loose end. He had 
figured out on deck the only way, but he wanted 
to prove his reasoning by mental tests. The master 
counterfeiter, cunning, desperate, could do only one 
thing — eliminate the man he knew suspected him. 
And Thornley Colton could do but ou* thing — 
" watch " every minute the head of the gang. The 
success of the whole case depended on Colton's 
alertness in preventing the criminal from making 
one move that the problemist knew he would make 
the instant the master rogue discovered all was lost. 



290 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



Yet the presence of the man at the denouement 
was necessary ! Colton rose. He must take a 
desperate chance, just as he had taken them many- 
times before. 

He opened the door, and went down the narrow 
corridor, his brain automatically counting the steps 
it had registered when he entered. He stopped. 
He smelled the heavy licorice odour of the pectoral 
papers again. For an instant a grim smile flashed 
to his lips. He had followed the mind-processes of 
the man correctly once more. The smell of the 
smoke was too obvious ; it had been overdone. 

A stateroom door opened before him. 

" Got a match 1 " asked a voice, and Colton 
understood the disguising of tone instantly. 

The blind man held out his match safe ; then the 
snarling whisper of the man cut the stillness, and he 
felt a gun-muzzle jab viciously into his ribs. " Get 
in here ! " Colton quietly obeyed the order, and 
stepped over the threshold into the stateroom that 
was filled almost to suffocation with cigarette 
smoke. 

" Put 'em over your head ! Up ! " The snarl 
changed to a sneer. " So you're the slick blind 
man that sister of mine talked about, eh ? The 
lonehander that makes boobs of the police and 
secret service % Well, little bat-eye, I've been 
laying for you ever since I got wise to that slick 
fall trick. Got a damn' fine nose, eh, smelling that 
pec smoke I've been filling the lower deck with ever 
since you and the kid came down." 

" Humour palls when the audience is forced to 
stand in so uncomfortable a position," said the blind 
man evenly. 

He felt his own pistol snatched away. 

" Back up a step, and you'll find the bed ! " 
ordered the voice. 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



291 



The blind man sat down and waited patiently. 
When the other man spoke again there was grudging 
admiration in his voice. " I've got to hand it to 
you," he admitted. " I didn't think there was one 
man on earth that'd get wise. Now I suppose you 
want the old man ? " 

" I want you first," Colton told him. 

" You got me ! " laughed the man with the 
gun. But you haven't got me like you got 
that sister of mine, have you ? She wouldn't 
say a word, would she ? Well, it's a damn' good 
thing she didn't ! " 

" I knew that," said Colton quietly. 

" You didn't think the wayward son could come 
back after ten years, with a counterfeiting process 
that couldn't be beat, and then get his father in on 
the scheme to pass the phony money through his 
bank, did you ? And you didn't know that staid 
old Dryden Nelson would ever become head of the 
gang, and then slide out under the noses of the 
secret-service men. I guess he's the man you want 
to get, eh ? Well, I'm the little man that's going 
to see that you don't ! " 

" I will find him when the time comes." 

" You will, eh — you will ! " Snarling viciousness 
dominated the voice. " Well, you won't ! You, 
with your lone hand ! Why, you poor boob, it'd 
take a gang to get me!" 

" I had about concluded you were just taking a 
chance on a word dropped by Miss Nelson and a 
thing or two you might have heard of me," Colton 
said quietly. " I didn't think you'd dare have any 
one near enough to get real information. This is 
one of the games where I don't play a lone hand. 
The boat that's been following us ever since we left 
the dock is the revenue cutter Proctor, with Chief 
WTiittson and his men aboard." 



292 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



The man ripped out an oath. " So that's it ! " 
he snarled. " Fooled me, eh ? Stand up ! Put 
your hands behind your back ! No funny work ! 
I've tied men before with one hand." 

Colton smiled at him sardonically. " If I am off 
the deck fifteen minutes Chief Whittson and his men 
will board the Carracas, and nab the fake owners 
of the bear. Quite a scheme, that. No one would 
ever suspect ignorant, ragged-looking, brown men 
with a dancing bear as counterfeiters, would they ? " 
His tone was a burlesque of the man's own. " And 
what do you suppose the chief '11 do when he finds 
me here ? Tied up or dead makes no difference. 
I promised myself to get you, and get you alone. 
But it'll be just as good that way." The mockery 
had died out of his voice at that last sentence ; 
there was a tinge of bitterness that the man instantly 
recognised. 

" Well, you couldn't put him wise to me ! " 
gritted the man. " So you are a lone-handed 
worker, after all. Get up ! " he commanded. 
Colton obeyed the jabbing gun-barrel. " I'm a 
single-hander, too ! " went on the counterfeiter. 
" We're going up on the deck, and if there's a move 
to get me, out you go ! This gun'll be in my pocket, 
jamming your kidneys every minute. Let 'em get 
the gang ! I'm through with 'em ! Let 'em have 
the bear, too ! It'll be no good to anybody ! I'll 
see to that. But if you even lift a finger to point 

me out " He made a horrible gurgling sound 

in his throat that was more than significant. " Come 
on ! " he ordered sharply. 

They left the stateroom, Colton idly twirling his 
slim stick, the man at his side talking common- 
places in a grim tone that made them anything but 
commonplaces. To the passengers who saw them 
on the deck they were only ship acquaintances, but 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



293 



the blind man felt the gun-muzzle now and then in 
his side. 

" We'll stop here," growled the man at the forward 
rail, overlooking the open deck below. " I want to 
( be where I can watch those men of mine. Put 
your hands on the rail where I can see 'em ! " 

Colton quietly obeyed, resting his elbows on the 
wood and dangling his cane over the edge. The 
crash of the wireless sender broke out ; the blind 
man felt his companion grow tense as his trained 
ears read the dots and dashes. Then he knew that 
the message he had written so that the man who 
was an expert telegrapher could not suspect had 
flashed to the revenue cutter, " John Jones, 56 
Cedar Street," meant nothing but a business 
deal. 

Minutes passed. Below them the three ragged 
men lounged around the cage. Four or five other 
men, of the crew off watch, stood around, scowling 
vindictively at the bear cage and its sleeping animal. 
Then came the thing that the blind man had been 
waiting for. He felt the big engines slow down. 
Not a muscle of his body seemed to move, but the 
knuckles of his right hand whitened as he gripped 
the end of his cane. 

An oath came from the man at his side. " So 
you tricked " 

So sudden that it seemed but a whir in the light, 
the slim cane in the hand of the blind man swished 
around, straight for the other man's eyes. There 
had been not a warning move but a lightning turn 
of the wrist. The first instinct man has is to protect 
his eyes. The criminal obeyed it, forgetting all else. 
He dodged with a gasp. Colton's knees seemed to 
give way under him, he spun around on the balls of 
his feet like a cat ; then his whole body straightened 
like a suddenly released whalebone, his right fist 



294 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



found the jaw of the other, and the master counter- 
feiter fell without a groan and lay still. 

Colton's whistle rang out shrilly. A screamed 
oath came from the deck below. The sound of a 
struggle. 

" Get the bear ! " shouted Colton. 

A shot rang out. Another. He could hear the 
big cage rattle and groan as the dying animal 
thrashed out its life. Around the cage seven men 
were struggling, the three ragged, dark-skinned men 
who had guarded the cage and the four men who 
had been apparently lounging sailors. 

The blind man listened for a moment, then he 
smiled a grim smile. " A lone hand ! " he mur- 
mured. " I hate assistants — but I'm not such an 
egotistical fool as all that ! " 

On the port side of the boat he heard the scram- 
bling of men to the high, white deck. Then Chief 
Whittson's voice came : 

" Did you get him ? " 

Colton touched the unconscious body of the man 
near the rail just as he would have touched the body 
of a snake with his foot. 

" Where's Nelson % " asked the chief eagerly. 

" Down there in the false, canvas-covered top of 
that bear cage ! " 

" What ! " 

" Yes. Drugged ! For God's sake get that suffo- 
cating cover off, and send for the ship's doctor." 

The order was bawled to the men below. Willing 
hands ripped the cover to pieces, and on a thin 
mattress, in a steel-floored, steel-meshed upper com- 
partment of the cage, was Dryden F. Nelson, white- 
faced, unconscious ! 

" By Heaven, he had his nerve with him to take 
that chance to get away ! " gasped the chief, in 
admiration. " It's a new one ! We'd never have 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 295 



suspected a bear cage in a thousand years. And we 
had every way out of the city guarded." 

** Yes ! " The word came as a half groan, half 
snarl, from the man on the deck, whom one of the 
secret-service operatives had just manacled. " He 
had his nerve ! He's my father I And he's the 
greatest counterfeiter of them all ! " 

Thornley Colton leaned forward. He grasped a 
wrist of the man, and almost pulled the arm out of 
its socket. 

" You dirty, lying cur ! " he said, and his tone 
was one that he had never used before. " You 
forced that old man to serve you after he had dis- 
covered what you were doing ! You forced the girl 
who thought you were her brother to protect you I 
By God, if ever a man deserved hanging you're 
the one ! " 

" He's my father ! " grated the handcuffed man. 
" If I go to jail he'll go, too ! He knows I'm his son!" 

" You dog ! " Colton's voice fairly shook with 
passion. " You fooled him into believing that you 
were his rotten-hearted son that died ten years ago. 
But you can't fool me ! You may look like Joe 
Nelson ! You may deceive even the eyes of a father ! 
But I'm blind ! Blind ! I talked for an hour with 
a school chum who played in the football game in 
which Joe Nelson broke his wrist. You never had 
a broken wrist in your life ! The bones are perfect ! " 
He turned to the chief. " Keep a careful guard on 
that cage, chief, until we get to the cutter. I think 
there's a million or so dollars that this dog got from 
Nelson's bank stuffed into that mattress ! " 

" Damn you ! " The man half rose to his knees 
as he shrieked it. "I tricked them all ! And 

you " . 

" That's the confession I wanted to vindicate 
Nelson," said the blind man contentedly. 



296 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



\ 



V. 

Nadine Nelson rose as the blind man entered the 
room, her lips curved in a wonderful smile of joyous 
greeting, and she hurried across the floor to meet him. 

" Can you ever forgive me ? " he asked, in his 
rich, musical voice. 

" Forgive you ? " she cried happily. " Why, I 
could — kiss you ! " She v stopped, crimson-cheeked. 

He smiled seriously down at her. " It was 
necessary, the way I spoke to you," he said gently. 
" Before, I did not realise how desperate the game 
was. I knew that your father's life hung on the 
thread of your silence. And I knew that the only 
way I could assure myself that you wouldn't break 
down and talk was to arouse every bit of that 
wonderful fighting gameness you have. The men 
who had your father would have killed him rather 
than risk getting him away if they thought there was 
a breath of suspicion." 

" I know," she said ; " I know — and understand." 

" The ringleader talked a little to the chief on the 
way back in the revenue cutter," went on Colton. 
" He had been a pal of your brother's for years in 
South America. They worked together in a tele- 
graph office in Rio." 

" He was a wonderful operator," murmured the 
girl. " He is the only man I ever knew of who could 
imitate another man's touch on the key. That was 
the proof that convinced father that he was Joe. 
You know the touch of an operator on a sender is 
as individual as handwriting." 

Colton nodded. " My knowledge of that fact is 
what threw me off the track at first. You knew 
your brother was implicated the minute you spoke 
of him in your room. I remembered then the 
stories I had heard of him. I remembered that he 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



297 



was fifteen years older than you, and was supposed 
to have been shot in South America ten years ago, 
where he went following some trouble here." 

" Joe always was wild," the girl confessed softly, 
" though I only remember him as a big, strong 
brother who used to hold me on his knee while he 
told me wonderful stories. I couldn't believe some- 
times that the man who was making daddy do such 
horrible things could be the brother I knew. But I 
couldn't convince father. The counterfeiter knew 
every incident of Joe's life, and there was the touch 
of the operator that father thought was so indis- 
putable. I tried to get father to confess it all. I 
refused to carry him the messages that were left 
in my room after we knew the secret-service men 
were watching us, and that Joe and his men were 
next door. Then Joe — I can't call him anything 
else " 

" That is the name he has gone under for years," 
put in Colton. 

" Then Joe rigged up the magnets and key," 
went on the girl. " He had to give father instruc- 
tions every night where to distribute the counterfeit 
money that was packed in the vaults of the bank 
in place of the reserve. And he made father sell all 
his bonds to cover the shortage. Then, with the 
help of a watchman, who was another of the gang, 
they got the counterfeit money in to take the place 
of that father had gotten to make good. Every 
day Joe promised that he would make restitution, 
for he had made father believe that he had sent the 
money to Brazil for investment, and it would double 
in a month. So father hoped and prayed, and got 
years older every hour. The secret-service men were 
dogging every step, watching every move. Jail 
stared him in the face — and he believed the man 
he thought his son, believed that he would have the 



298 



TEE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



money to look the world squarely in the face once 
more. 

" Then Joe told him one night, over the wire, 
that he had lost all. Father must go. I watched 
outside my door every night to see that Paul did 
not come near. I caught a word. I pleaded with 
father. For four days I fought against them. 
Then they won. I was at the door last night when 
father came running up the stairs, panting, half 
dead with the excitement of having slipped past 
the secret-service man. He darted past me. I 
followed. Joe grabbed me by the arm when I 
started to protest. * Get downstairs and throw ~a 
fit because your father has gone ! ' he hissed. 
' You'll be along in a little while, and be with him ! ' 
he finished, and there was a look in his eyes that 
frightened me. So you see it wasn't only acting in 
the library." She shuddered. 

Colton understood, even more than she, for he 
had heard the confession of the master counterfeiter 
on the revenue cutter that had brought them all 
back to the city. He had learned then why he had 
taken such pains to get the old man away. The 
crook had not been satisfied to take every dollar 
of the old man's fortune. He had seen the girl ; he 
had wanted her, and she was to have been the price 
of her father's life ! 

" The chief's men got the whole plant next door," 
he put in hastily. " It's a new process of bleaching 
one-dollar bills, and making hundreds from them 
with a new photographic process. The master crook 
had been perfecting it for years in Brazil, waiting 
for a big stake in New York. He put one of his 
assistants as correspondent of your father's bank 
down there. A year ago he had him write a humble 
letter asking for a position in New York. Your father 
gave it to Mm." 



THE RINGING GOBLETS 



299 



" Yes," admitted the girl. " And the man who 
took the position was the one who posed as my 
brother. He pretended to be very dull. That's 
why the secret-service men never suspected him. 
When he had been in the bank three months, father 
discovered a shortage of sixty thousand dollars. 
He accused the man who came from Brazil. Father's 
bank, you know, is a private institution, and only 
has seven employees. The man confessed, and con- 
vinced father that he was Joe. He said he would 
make good the loss. And he did, with the clever 
counterfeits. That was the entering wedge. After 
that father was only putty in his hands. Six months 
ago he resigned, after seeing to it that one of his 
gang was put in as watchman and another took his 
place." 

" That is when he took up his role as doctor," 
put in Colton, " and got his scheme of taking the 
poor Frenchman's house. And at the hospital they 
say the Frenchman will recover fully." 

" And father is upstairs sleeping," she said softly. 
" You brought him back to me — and he knows that 
the man who tried to ruin him, the man who would 
have killed him if you had not been there to prevent 
him when the revenue men came, was not his son ! 
That is the greatest of all ! We owe you a debt 
that we can never repay ; you and Sydney, here, 
who stood so bravely by when I thought all the world 
had turned against me." 

She touched the arm of the black-haired man who 
had sat silent beside her, and he looked at her with 
a wonderful new light in his eyes. Gone, now, was 
Sydney Thames' s great fear of women that had been 
his obsession all his life. He had met the woman. 

" Can you ever forgive me, Thorn % " he asked, 
speaking for the first time. He had not even raised 
his eyes to the face of the man he had renounced that 



300 



THE SEVENTH PROBLEM 



morning. Ever since Dryden Nelson had been 
brought back to his home, and the wireless message 
from the revenue cutter had opened the jail-door 
for the girl, his thoughts had been torturing him. 

" I must forgive myself first," the blind man said 
quietly. " It hurt me more than anything else to 
talk to you like that. But a man's life hung in the 
balance. I could not tell you, for I knew you would 
tell the girl rather than see her suffer a minute." 
One of his rare smiles lighted up his face. " Let's 
make it a burned paper, more completely burned 
than the charred fragment I found in the French- 
man's house ; the part of a note one of the outside 
men sent to the master counterfeiter. For on that 
my fingers read three words : Joe, cage, Carracas. 
That finished the case — my case." And his sightless 
eyes seemed to look at them with understanding 
and joy. 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



THE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 
I. 

A jabbing incongruity in the room of tapestries, 
silken-shaded lights, and furnishings of mahogany, 
the rough wooden box, with its dirty, scarred 
sides, scratched the top of the polished table in a 
hundred places without arousing even a murmur 
of protest from the four men who watched every 
movement of the little Japanese servant as he 
carefully pried the holding nails from the cover 
boards. A chorused " Ah ! " came from four 
pairs of Hps as the servant laid the chisel down and 
lifted the last board. 

" Careful, Nesu," warned the frock-coated man 
with the white moustache and sun-tanned cheeks. 

The dissipated-looking youth, with the Egyptian 
cigarette dangling loosely from his lower lip, rose 
to get a better view of the interior. " 'Nough 
cotton stuffing there to fill a barrel, captain," he 
grinned, vacuously. 

" Yes," nodded the white-moustached captain. 
" Nearly ten pounds, and the Devils are bound 
into place with nearly twenty yards of silk strips. 
A man takes a little care with a thing that's cost 
him forty thousand, Meynerd." 

The Japanese servant pulled out a huge handful 
of cotton, and placed it on a spread newspaper as 



302 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



another of the group spoke. "Is it really worth 
that, captain ? " he asked. 

" Three times that, Joslyn. Forty thousand is 
only what I paid the hunchback outcast priest in 
the Yunling mountain monastery in Sze Chuen. He 
had had it hidden for nearly fifty years. The eye 
alone is worth sixty-five thousand, if it's worth a 
cent. The forty thousand I paid will buy the 
priest all the prayers he needs for the next hundred 
years ; and they'll be the best prayers money can 
buy, at that." He smiled, grimly. "I needed a few 
of those same prayers on several occasions myself,' ' 
he went on. " Especially on that three-hundred- 
mile journey through the Yunlings to Chingtu. I 
have an idea the priest wanted to steal a march on 
the prayers, and threw out a hint that the ' white 
dogs ' had found the pearl-eyed Seven Devils of Sin. 
During the half century that had passed since he 
stole it, of course, it has been ' lost.' " 

" Why didn't he return it instead of getting 
forty thousand dollars to buy prayer papers to burn 
for his soul % " asked Wilson, the fourth member 
of the group, taking his eyes from the busy-fingered 
Jap. 

' ' Because he was a Chinese," explained Captain 
Richards. " He stole the thing when he had just 
entered the monastery, for a white man who bribed 
him — that's a long story in itself. The briber was 
killed the day of the theft. The young priest was 
suspected, and tortured until he became a hunch- 
back and outcast, but no confession could be gotten. 
In the years the blame has been laid on the white 
man's devil, who stole the Chinese devils and took 
them to his home, when the white master was 
killed. The peculiar kink of the Chinese mind 
would not let the thief confess or return the devils. 
He couldn't see where the mere restitution would 



THE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 303 



expiate his sin. The only way he could figure was 
to wait until some one came with enough money 
to pray him into heaven for a hundred years after 
he had gone. Peculiar cusses, the Chinese. ,, 

He rose at the last word, and the others rose 
with him. The Japanese was unwinding yard after 
yard of two-inch silken strips. 

" Ah ! " It was more than an exclamation : it 
was a three-man-power cry of amazement, wonder, 
and surprise as the captain lifted the thing from 
the box and set it gently on the table. 

" Great guns ! " gasped the dissipated-looking 
youth, backing away a step and stopping with a 
sheepish grin. 

" The Seven Golden Devils of Sin with the single 
eye ! " announced the captain, with a flourish. 

The men stared at the most curious-looking 
object they had ever seen. At first glance it seemed 
merely a spidery collection of arms and legs ; then 
seven figures stood out, separately and distinctly, 
grouped closely together. In the centre stood the 
shortest ; around him, in every conceivable position, 
were six others. Their bodies were grotesquely 
deformed, their backs misshapen, their limbs 
twisted ; and the genius who had fashioned the 
thing of his dull, hand-hammered gold in the 
centuries gone, had given to the bodies and limbs 
the distortion of horrible agony. 

But it was the head ; the single head that sur- 
mounted the seven bodies, which held their 
attention. The face was hideous ; but in the very 
hideousness the gold worker had put cunning, 
power, strength. The thick Hps leered a smile of 
satanic triumph ; the cheek bones were high, 
oblique. And above the squat, wide-nostriled 
nose was a single eye ! It was a pearl, perfect, 
flawless : milk-white against the red-yellow gold. 



304 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



As they stared there seemed to come into the 
single eye of pearl a glow of red, as though the heart 
of the great jewel were a spark of fire that shone 
through the lustred surface. It was a trick of the 
lights, perhaps, or the reflected colour of the over- 
hanging brow, but to the men who watched, it 
seemed that the eye held all the malevolence and 
cruelty of the Pit itself. 

" The devilish thing gives a man the creeps ! " 
growled Meynerd ; and his hand shook a bit as he 
took the cigarette from his Hps. 

Joslyn laughed jerkily, for the spell of the thing 
was on him, too. 

" Better cut out a few of those high balls, Mey," 
he taunted. 

A flush of resentment mounted the youth's 
cheeks ; but the captain forestalled his angry reply. 

" Those figures represent the seven sins, each one 
enough to keep a Chinese from his heaven. The 
one in the centre, though the shortest and most 
horribly deformed of all, has the biggest and 
strongest body. That is Deceit, the most powerful 
of devils. The Mongolian reasons that none of the 
other devils can enter the heart of man unless 
deceit has entered first." 

" Excellent philosophy, that," commented Wilson. 

" That is why the head rests on the centre figure 
and the bodies of the others are bent forward to 
meet it," continued the captain. " Notice, too, 
that though the limbs are terribly twisted, and the 
bodies scarred to symbolize the awful punishment 
the gods have inflicted on the wicked seducers of 
men's hearts, the head is perfect, showing that the 
devils can still think with their one head, and plan 
traps for the unwary. And the eye " — his face 
lighted with the enthusiasm of the collector — " the 
wonderful eye that is all-seeing, alert to catch the 



THE E7E OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 305 



first sign of weakening in the lowest coolie in the 
kingdom. That, gentlemen, is the thing I worked 
years to get ; the thing that nearly cost me my 
life a dozen times — the Eye of the Seven Devils ! 
The most wonderful pearl in the world ; the pearl 
with a heart of fire ! " 

" Funny the thief priest didn't pry out the eye 
and sell it to buy his prayers, without risking getting 
rid of the whole thing," put in Joslyn. 

" That's the wonder of the thing ! " exclaimed 
the captain. " By some method that no one has 
ever been able to fathom, the maker of the thing 
set the stone in such a way that it can't be taken 
out without cutting the whole thing to pieces. 
The pearl appears merely pasted in its socket, but 
the microscope can see, in the space around it, that 
the jewel is gripped in four prongs that fit into tiny 
holes bored in the back of the pearl. The space 
around it is so narrow that no instrument of 
strength, sufficient to cut or break the prongs, can 
be inserted. Arid if it could, the very act would 
cause the gem to chip, and, perhaps, split. That is 
the way the maker made theft impossible ! " 

" Wouldn't mind having the pearl," growled 
Meynerd, " but I'd throw the rest of it in a sewer." 

The tanned cheeks of Captain Richards went a 
dull red with anger, and his moustache bristled ; 
but Wilson cut in to prevent an open break. 

" Let's have a little drink." 

The servant, who had stuffed the last silk strip 
into the empty case, straightened up. 

" High ball," grunted Meynerd. 

" Another absinthe drip," added Joslyn. 

" Bourbon," ordered Wilson, and the captain 
nodded. 

Silence followed the going of the servant. The 
captain took out his watch, glanced at it, chewed 



306 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



his cigar almost nervously, and lounged back in 
the chair he had taken beside Joslyn. The eyes of 
the others wandered around the room, but always 
returned to the twisted bodies of the seven devils 
of the single eye. The thing of hand- wrought 
metal on the table seemed to exert an uncanny 
influence over men who had never known super- 
stition. As the silent seconds passed there came a 
tension in the mood of all. Each found himself 
continually catching the other's eye, only to glance 
hastily and sheepishly away. And the twisted 
devil mouth leered at them ; in the smouldering 
fire of the devil eye seemed infinite scorn. 

The return of the servant with the tray of drinks 
made each one sit up eagerly. The Japanese went 
to the captain first and held out a card. 

" Hustle the high ball," growled Meynerd. The 
Jap hurried over. Meynerd's unsteady hands had 
spilled a third of the liquor before Wilson took the 
small carafe from his shaking hands and poured the 
remainder over the ice. The youth growled mono- 
syllabic thanks. Captain Richards whistled as 
Meynerd tossed his drink off at a gulp. 

"Going to leave us, captain?" asked Joslyn, 
poking his straws farther down in the cracked ice 
of the absinthe. 

Captain Richards looked up from the card he 
held between his thumb and forefinger. " Puzzling 
thing," he prefaced. " Here's the card of Ching 
Li Chu." His eyes went again to the pasteboard 
as he read : " Secretary to the ambassador at 
Washington of the Imperial Chinese Republic." 

" What does he want ? " asked Wilson. 
" That ? " He jerked his head toward the table. 

" How on earth " Sudden decision cleared 

the look of puzzlement from the captain's brow. 
" Send him in, Nesu," he ordered. 



THE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 307 



" Chink devils, chink secretaries," grinned 
Meynerd. The liquor had pulled his nerves 
together again, and his Hps curved in contempt 
when he caught Joslyn stealing a covert glance 
toward the table, as the door opened. 

The man who entered, unquestionably a 
Mongolian, had a lean, intelligent face. The eyes, 
but slightly aslant, looked straight before him, 
giving no sign that they even saw the seated men, 
but stared fixedly at the table and its thing of gold. 
In the centre of the room the Chinese stopped and 
made a deep obeisance, once, twice, thrice. A low 
laugh of contempt came from Meynerd's lips, but 
the Chinese paid no heed. He walked to the table, 
and for several silent seconds gazed steadily into 
the eye of the pearl. With another deep bow he 
turned, his eyes searching each face. 

" Captain Richards ? His voice was low, 
mellow, with no trace of accent. 

" I am he! " The captain rose from his seat and 
bowed. 

" So my information was correct ; it is the Seven 
Devils with the True Eye." Again the Chinese 
bowed toward the figures. Once more Meynerd 
laughed sneeringly. This time the Mongolian 
turned toward him inquiringly. 

" You do not mock me," he rebuked, mildly. 
" Your mockery is of the Seven Devils. I would 
be careful, were I you." 

" Bah ! " Meynerd set down his empty glass. 
" I didn't know you fellows worshipped devils, and 
little gold devils on a table, at that." 

" Nor do we." Still that mild, even voice. " We 
worship our gods ; but we are careful not to incur the 
wrath of our devils . The gods may forgive the ignorant 
mocker ; the devils slay. That I believe, and I am no 
coolie, but a man educated in your own universities." 



308 



THE EIGHTH PPOBLEM 



" Drunken kid ! " muttered the captain, his 
fingers moving along the table-edge as he leaned 
against it. " You wanted to see me on business ? " 
he asked the Chinese. 

" Yes. I wish to pay you one hundred thousand 
dollars for the golden Seven Devils of Sin ! " The 
amazement this announcement caused showed 
plainly on each man's face. The Chinese went on : 
" The new republic seeks to unite its people, but 
throughout the province of Chingtu it is known that 
the lost Seven Devils has been taken from the 
country. They demand that the new government 
see that it is returned if they are to believe that 
government's power. Our failure will mean a 
costly and bloody war, for the Yunling mountain 
men are fighters who know every inch of its vast 
slopes." 

" So my six months of devious routes and con- 
stant guarding amounted to nothing." The 
captain's lips smiled grimly, but there was a fight 
in his eyes that had not been there before. " I 
suppose the priest is being honoured for having been 
told by the gods that the white dog had stolen 
the thing." 

" Prayer papers have been burning this last five 
months for the hunchback," said the Chinese, 
quietly. 

" Urn." The smile left the captain's lips. He 
shook his head. " 1 will not sell," he declared, and 
there was finality in his voice. 

It seemed a full minute before any one spoke. 
The noiseless Jap servant industriously picked up 
small tufts of cotton that had fallen to the rug 
back of the table. Joslyn set his glass, with its 
green-tinged cracked ice on the table, clinkingly, 
and the captain's eyes left the Mongolian's face as 
the noise attracted them, Meynerd's lips still 



TEE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 309 

grinned contemptuously as he spun the piece of 
ice around in his empty high-ball glass. 

" The devils can only bring sorrow to you." The 
voice of the Chinese was deep, full of sincerity. 
" Perhaps death, for in your country there will be 
mockers, and, as I told your friend, the devils slay 
those who mock them." His deep eyes rested on 
Meynerd. The face of the youth went red for an 
instant ; then the sneer came back. 

" Like to see 'em kill me ! " he said, boastfully. 
" A chink knife in back might, but no pigeon-toed 
gang of devils with one eye could ! " 

" Do not speak that way ! " There was stern 
reproof in the tone of the Chinese. " You may 
know the things of the West, but there are things 
of the East that you do not know ! " 

" Is that so ! " Meynerd shook off the restraining 
hand of Wilson and stood up. The face of the 
captain went white with rage, and his hands 
fumbled with the handkerchief he had been in the 
act of lifting to his brow. 

" Be a gentleman ! " he snapped. 

Meynerd paid no heed. " Here's to you devils ! " 
he laughed, sneeringly. " Long may you wave — 
in a glass case ! " 

" The mockers kotow before they die ! " The 
words came rapidly, almost hissingly, from the lips 
of the Chinese. 

" Here's to crime ! " Meynerd stood in front of 
the golden devils and drained the last drops of his 
drink. A gasp came from the Japanese as he backed 
away a step, his hand full of cotton tufts he had 
picked up from the floor. Captain Richards 
crushed the handkerchief in his hand as he brushed 
his hps. Every eye in the room was on the gently 
swaying man with the glass to his Hps. 

Suddenly Meynerd's face went livid ; the glass 



310 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



fell to the floor. Slowly his knees bent. For a 
second he seemed to kneel before the leering face of 
gold. His body fell forward. His forehead 
touched the ground. Then the limbs straightened 
convulsively, and he lay still. 

The seated men jumped to their feet, with 
exclamations of horror. The Chinese, face impas- 
sive, leaned over and touched the pulse of the 
man on the floor. Then he looked up into the 
faces of the three white-faced men who bent over 
him. 

r " He is dead," said the Mongolian, quietly. 
" The devils have slain." 

Mechanically, involuntarily, they turned toward 
the hideous thing on the table. As one the startled 
cry came from three pairs of Hps : 

" The Eye ! The Eye ! " 

The twisted, thick hps of gold still leered at 
them, but where the eye of pearl had been, only an 
empty socket seemed to stare down at the dead 
man on the floor. 

II. 

" Pawn to king five and checkmate." Thornley 
Colton took a final puff of his cigarette, and dropped 
it in the ash tray beside the chessboard. 

Sydney Thames, the apple cheeked, black-haired 
secretary to the blind problemist, laughed ruefully. 
" I almost believe that you could beat me with 
pawns alone, Thorn," he declared, looking over the 
pieces on the board. 

" Your whole game is attack," Colton observed. 
" You forget all about defence. Another ? " 

Thames merely nodded, and silently rearranged 
the pieces on the board. " Three and pawn again ? " 
he asked. 

" Yes, if you " The ringing telephone-bell 



THE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 311 

on the desk broke in, and Sydney rose to answer it. 
He returned almost on the run. 

" It's Captain Richards, at the Wanderers' 
Club," he began, breathlessly. " He wants you at 
once. He said something about a murder, and the 
eye of some seven devils of sin, as near as I could 
understand." 

Thornley Colt on' s mobile face, whose paleness 
was strikingly accentuated by the great blue circles 
of the tortoise-rimmed library glasses that shielded 
his sightless eyes from all glares, lighted up with 
interest. " Is he still on the wire ? " He rose as 
he asked the question. 

Thames shook his head. " He blurted out the 
message and rang right off. He seemed positive 
you'd come." 

A faint smile came to Thornley Colton's lips. 
" I guess he knew that a single breath from the 
Orient would interest me." He touched the call- 
button on the desk that would summon the big 
black automobile instantly, at any hour of the day 
or night. " I hadn't any idea Captain Richards had 
returned. I haven't seen him for years." The 
smile left his face. " My fingers have been itching 
to see those wonderful Seven Devils I've heard so 
much about." 

" Your interest in things Chinese is beyond me," 
confessed Sydney, as he followed the blind man 
out of the room and down the stairs. 

" You were in college the last four years I spent 
in China, Sydney." Colton spoke as the chauffeur 
closed the tonneau-door of the touring car, and 
threw in the gears. " The lure of the East has 
never gotten out of my veins. To a man who can 
see, China must be wonderful. To me it is mar- 
vellous. Old, satiated of every human emotion 
before we discovered emotion ; a view-point as 



312 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



incomprehensible as the hereafter itself ; a character 
that cannot be visualized — why, Sydney, to men of 
eyes, the lure of China is the lure of a beautiful 
picture. To me it is the lure of the unattainable.' 

" Something like the mystery of woman ? " 
asked Sydney Thames, seriously. 

" Not at all." The slim cane waved an impatient 
gesture over the side of the car. " The so-called 
mystery of woman is her constantly shifting view- 
point dependent on outside influences ; the mystery 
of the Chinese is his undeviating view-point." 

" Too deep for me," laughed Thames ; then he 
swung open the door as the car stopped before the 
great Gothic door- way of the Wanderers' Club. 

The mantle of tragedy hung heavily over the 
luxurious, exclusive interior of the famous club as 
they entered. In the main lounging-room a small 
group of members talked in hushed whispers, and 
their nervous starts at each sound belied the 
reputations most of them had gained as travellers 
in countries where danger lurked constantly. The 
servitors, usually alert, swift to receive and execute 
an order, moved with lagging footsteps. Thornley 
Colton recognised the atmosphere of uneasiness 
immediately, and a cynical smile flashed across his 
thin lips as he understood the cause. The 
Wanderers, rich seekers of excitement and danger 
in foreign countries, hard-headed, with nerves of 
steel when face to face with violent death, had 
fallen under the spell of the uncanny, the super- 
natural. 

The chief steward, from his vantage-point at the 
head of the stairs, spied them and hurried down. 

" It's — they're upstairs, sir." A scared note was 
in his voice. " The physician has just this minute 
arrived. The police haven't been told. Captain 
Richards thought maybe It's terrible, sir." 



TEE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 313 



" Very, Peters," nodded Colton, absently, as he 
followed the man up the broad staircase, and to 
himself he muttered, " Lucky the police haven't had 
a chance to bungle it. Very, very lucky." 

The instant they opened the door Captain 
Richards bounded across the floor to meet them. 
" Thank God you came, Mr. Colton ! " he cried, 
shaking the hand of the blind man with more than 
heartiness. 

" Who was it ? " asked Colton. 

" Meynerd. The doctor's trying to find the 
cause of death now." He nodded his head toward 
the broad leather couch against the wall, with its 
grim occupant, and the physician bending over it. 

Colton asked a dozen crisp, terse questions. The 
answers he got told him the whole story. The 
captain introduced him to every one in the room, 
and Colton shook their hands, even to the obsequious 
Japanese servant, who stood patiently awaiting 
orders, near the wall. 

The doctor finished his examination and 
straightened up. " Heart-failure," he announced. 
" Brought on by alcoholic excesses, I should judge, 
and probably superinduced by excitement." 

" Strange that the hand of God should have 
descended at the exact moment chosen by a thief to 
steal the pearl," remarked Colton quietly. 

" You don't think it's murder ? " There was a 
queer chokiness in Captain Richards's voice. 

" Yes ! " Colton shot out the word as he stood 
in the centre of the room, turning his head slowly, 
as though his sightless eyes were trying to surprise 
some expression of guilt on the white faces of the 
men. Wilson's hands gripped his chair-arms so 
tightly that the knuckles cracked. Joslyn stretched 
an arm toward the glass, with its green-tinged ice 
on the table, but withdrew it quickly, to let his 



314 



THE EIGHT E PROBLEM 



hands fall on his knees. The Japanese servant's 
foot shifted nervously over a small wad of cotton 
that had fallen from his hands, minutes before. 
Only the Chinese was unmoved. 

" Neither the gods nor the devils murder," he 
said. " They kill." 

The blind man nodded toward him, slowly, 
" True," he answered, and his voice was serious. 
" But when the killing is done by human instru- 
ments, the law calls its murder." 

" You are of the West," shrugged the Mon- 
golian. 

" But the whole thing is impossible ! " There 
seemed almost a whine of incredulous protest in 
Captain Richards's voice. 

" Does the impossible happen % " Colton's voice 
was sharp, curt. " No ! But the improbable does ! 
A hundred times a day ! Every time a perfect 
match fails to strike an improbable thing has 
happened. Because that thing on the table 
hypnotized your eyes into waking the superstition 
that is the mental appendix handed down through 
the thousand centuries, you say that it is impossible. 
What is impossible ? Meynerd's death ? The fact 
that he was killed ? My statement that he was 
murdered ? Or do you mean that each one of you 
is so wise that no one could have deceived you ? 
Yet the eye is gone ! And even if the devils had 
killed Meynerd, would they have stolen their own 
eye ? " 

Each crisp sentence fairly sizzled as he shot it 
out. The hand that held his slim, hollow cane, 
that gave its messages to his super-sensitive finger- 
tips, waved up and down for emphasis, touching 
blindly the table, the golden devils, and some part 
of each man's body as he paced back and forth 
across the floor. 



TEE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 315 

" A man can't give another man heart-failure to 
kill him," declared the physician, pompously. 

" Can't ! " The smile on the problemist's face 
was sardonic as he faced the doctor. " Then no 
murder was ever committed. If a man's heart 
didn't fail he'd keep right on living. What 
caused Meynerd's heart to fail is the thing we've 
got to find out. Do you know how Meynerd fell ? " 

" No, immaterial details " 

" Very material ! " The blind man interrupted 
brusquely. " Every diagnostician should be a 
detective, and I might mention right here that one 
of the greatest surgeons and diagnosticians in 
America is a blind man. You should know that a 
man standing as Meynerd stood, suddenly stricken 
with heart-disease, would fall flat on his back. Yet 
he fell on his knees, his body bent forward so that 
his forehead touched the ground for an instant 
before it relaxed." 

" By Jove — I supposed " the physician 

sputtered his chagrin. Then his face brightened. 
" Some caustic, causing a griping in the intestines." 

" Exactly." The sharpness had gone from the 
detective's voice now, and he spoke in his old calm, 
even tone. 

" He drank a toast ! " Even as he spoke, the 
doctor's foot crunched a bit of the broken glass on 
the floor. 

" You'd have to analyze the rug," reminded 
Colton. " And who had the chance ? " He 
looked around inquiringly. 

" Wilson poured his drink ! " The words came 
in a gasp from Joslyn. 

Wilson sprang to his feet with an oath. " Are 
you accusing me of killing him % " He snarled the 
question, but his face was white. 

" Meynerd had gulped his drink even before 



316 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



Ching Li Chu entered," suddenly remembered 
Captain Richards. " There was only a few drops of 
the melted ice-water in his glass when he stood 
before the Seven Devils." 

" There are poisons that act after minutes have 
passed." The even, monotonous voice of the 
Chinese broke in. 

" Do you think the poisoner knew to the second 
when Meynerd's drunken folly would take the 
turn it did ? " demanded Colton ; and each man in 
the room recognised the menace in his tone. 

A gleam flashed to the eyes of the Mongolian for 
an instant, then vanished. " The instruments of 
the gods and the devils cannot fail," he answered, 
quietly. 

" No poison known could be timed like that," 
declared Colton, positively. 

" Right ! " growled Wilson, as he resumed his 
seat and darted a glance of new-born hatred across 
the room toward the man who had virtually accused 
him of the murder. 

Again came silence as the blind man stood in the 
centre of the room, alternately brushing the rug 
where lay the untouched pieces of the broken high- 
ball glass, and swishing at his trouser-leg. Across his 
high, white forehead, and at his eye-corners behind 
the round, blue glasses, innumerable fine lines 
deepened as his wonderful brain worked : visualizing 
each object in the room, every detail in the picture, 
every action that must have taken place at the 
instant of hopeless confusion when Meynerd had 
pitched forward on the floor. 

Immovable, the men watched, each tense for the 
first word or movement to break the suspense. 
Sydney Thames sat in his chair, with his eyes fixed 
on the devils of gold. Ever since he had entered 
the room the thing on the table had held him 



TEE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 317 

fascinated. More sinister, more fiendish than ever, 
without its single eye of pearl, the empty eye 
socket seemed to glare at him as though it gloated 
over the repugnant fascination it exerted. Sydney 
had heard the captain's story ; in his mind's eye 
he could picture the toast, the sneers, the fall. Had 
the devils killed Meynerd ? — as the Chinese had 
said they would. Then his eyes narrowed slightly 
as they went to the Mongolian, whose impassive 
face showed nothing of the thoughts behind the 
bright, slit eyes. He had said that death would 
follow. He was a Chinese — of a race to whom a 
life means nothing ; a race of mystery. Then his 
eyes went to the J ap servant who stood against the 
wall, patiently waiting permission to leave the room ; 
then, at the two scowling men, who carefully 
avoided each other's glances as they stared straight 
ahead of them — at nothing. Wilson had poured the 
drink. Why had Joslyn been so quick to tell the 
fact? 

Suddenly the swishing taps of the blind man's 
cane ceased ; the lines across his forehead and at 
his eye-corners vanished. " There is one way." 
He spoke apparently to himself. " Only one way." 

He crossed the room to the couch where the dead 
man lay, his face covered with a handkerchief. He 
pulled aside the coat, and unloosed a button of the 
thin silk shirt. From his vest-pocket he took a 
small rubber band, and the watching men saw him 
put it around the middle finger of his right hand, 
until the black rubber strands were deep sunken in 
the flesh. Then, gingerly, as though he were 
testing the heat of a red-hot stove, he opened the 
shirt, and with the tourniqueted finger gently 
touched the skin of Meynerd. Slowly, very slowly, 
the finger moved over the cold flesh of the dead 
man, then stopped. 



318 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



" See, doctor ! " He held the banded finger 
aloft. The physician's ejaculation of amazement 
was echoed by every other man in the room, but the 
unemotional Chinese and the well-trained servant. 
On the tip of the blind man's finger was a drop of 
blood ! 

" And see here ! " His fingers, holding the shirt 
back, exposed an inch or so of the dead man's 
skin. Four men bent their heads to see the small 
smear of red Colton's finger had left when it had 
brushed away the single blood-drop. 

"I don't understand." There was no doubt of 
ihe physician's bewilderment. 

Colton pulled the coat back and stood erect. 
" The most diabolically primitive of all murderous 
weapons," he said. " A poisoned dart." 

" But who ? How ? " gasped the captain. 

" That's what we've got to find out," the blind 
man said, curtly. With his pocket-knife he carefully 
cut the strands of the rubber and gently massaged 
the swollen, blood-congested finger. " A nasty 
thing to try to locate with delicate finger-tips," he 
remarked, casually. " A big chance that the thing 
hadn't penetrated its full length, as this one had, 
and a scratch would have meant another dead man." 

Sydney Thames's face lost its last vestige of 
colour as he realized that once again the blind man 
had toyed with death. A hundred times had 
Thames seen the problemist — the benefactor who 
had picked him up on the bank of the English 
river from which came his only name — take his life 
in his hands for the sake of solving one of the crime- 
puzzles he loved ; but always before there had been 
a chance for a fight against men with lesser brains. 
This time a single scratch of his feeling finger would 
have killed him instantly, horribly ; just as the 
mocker of the Seven Devils had been killed by the 



THE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 319 



man among them who had coveted the wonderful 

pearl that had been the eye. And that man 

Joslyn laughed a jerky laugh of nervousness as 
he turned away and reached out his hand for the 
glass that had held his absinthe. The ice had 
melted partially, and there was a half -inch or so of 
the pale-green liquid showing through the cracked- 
ice crystals. 

" Don't touch that glass ! " The command came, 
shot-like, from the hps of Colton. He lowered the 
slim cane that had touched Joslyn's leg and warned 
him of the movement. 

Joslyn withdrew his hand as if it had suddenly 
touched fire. 

" Why ? Wh-y ? " he gasped, and his face was 
pasty white. 

Because I don't want you to kill yourself ! " 
The blind man's hand moved to pick up the glass. 
He held it up and gingerly poked into the ice with 
his fingers. A grim smile came to his Hps, and he 
dumped the whole thing on the polished top of the 
mahogany- table. Colton's eight fingers seemed to 
touch every piece of ice in a single instant, so 
quickly did they move. Then his fore-finger 
separated a small pile of curiously-shaped crystals. 

" Broken glass ! " The exclamation came from 
the physician. 

Colton corroborated him with a nod, and spoke 
to the still pasty-faced Joslyn. " Some of the 
smaller particles would surely have gone down your 
throat." 

Joslyn's Adam's apple moved convulsively for a 
moment. " What is it ?" he gulped, finally. 

" The broken glass-tube that was used to shoot 
the poisoned dart ; probably not more than two 
inches long, because of the short distance, and of 
the thinnest glass, with just this object in view." 



320 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



" But how on earth did it get there ? " puzzled 
Captain Richards. 

" I'll bet it wasn't there five minutes ago ! " 
Wilson cried ; and every man in the room remem- 
bered Joslyn's movement toward the glass a few 
minutes before. 

The suave voice of the Chinese cut in. " Might I 
be informed how one who is blind could know of 
the glass % " he asked. 

" Because the cracked ice made an absolutely- 
perfect hiding-place for fine pieces of broken glass. 
If dropped on the floor with the bigger, thicker 
pieces of high-ball glass, the difference would have 
been immediately noted. I discovered that it had 
been a frapped drink when I walked up and down 
before the table and talked." 

Ching Li Chu rose and bowed gravely toward 
the golden thing on the table. " Truly, the wisdom 
of the gods and of the devils is infinite," he said, in 
his even voice. " But one man has such a drink. 
The devils chose him to protect their emissary ! " 

" Pretty philosophy," admitted Colton, " made 
grim by the fact that some one must suffer for being 
the devils' tool." He turned to face the silent 
Japanese servant, who stood still by the wall. 
" Tell the steward he can notify the police now, 
Nesu." 

The sunny Japanese smile that had been missing 
so long came to the little servitor's face, and he took 
a step forward to obey the order. 

" What about the pearl % " asked Captain 
Richards, suddenly. " This man shouldn't get out 
until he has been searched. A sixty-five-thousand- 
dollar gem would tempt 'most any one." 

Colton broke in, amazedly : " Hasn't the search 
been made yet ? " 

" No." The captain stammered over the 



TEE E7E OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 321 



monosyllable. " I called you as quickly as I could 
get to a telephone, after warning every one to 
stay in the room. I knew you were a member 
here, and clever at this sort of thing. The police 
are such asses, you know, and the scandal " 

Again the blind man cut him short. " Because 
there seemed no possible way by which the jewel 
could have been stolen — if the stories I heard of 
the famous Seven Devils, when I was first in China 
twenty years ago, are true — logically the jewel 
could be nowhere. Is that it ? " he asked. 

" Something like that." The tan on the captain's 
cheeks was a deeper tinge than usual. 

"The jewel is nowhere." The Chinese spoke 
solemnly, earnestly, almost reverently. " The 
devils have merely hidden it from the sight of 
mockers. My government will give you one 
hundred and fifty thousand dollars for the Seven 
Devils without the True Eye." 

" So that's it ! " The captain's voice was almost 
a shout ; the tone one of a man who has made a 
great discovery. " You have it ! You killed 
Meynerd to make me sell, eh ? " He advanced a 
step, threateningly. 

" The police will attend to that part 1 " warned 
the blind man, curtly. " Search Nesu — or go 
yourself." 

He turned to the table, and his wonderful fingers, 
each one an eye that could see things the eye of a 
normal man could not discern, touched the twisted 
limbs of one of the Seven Devils. 

" Come over nearer the fight, Nesu," ordered 
Captain Richards, and the serious-faced Japanese 
followed him around the table. 

The attention of the silent men in the room was 
divided between the search of the Jap and Colton's 
examination of the thing on the table. At times 
x 



322 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



the blind man's fingers moved swiftly over the 
dull-gold surface ; at others they seemed to rest for 
seconds, unmoving, only to resume their journey, 
slowly. Each man in the room understood, sub- 
consciously, that those marvellous finger-tips would 
give to the sightless man a mind-picture as perfect 
as that their eyes had given them — more perfect, 
perhaps. 

" All right ! " There was a growl of chagrin in 
the captain's voice, as he finished the search. The 
little Jap pattered out. 

" Didn't find it, eh ? " Colton spoke idly, without 
raising his head. His right forefinger was gently 
probing into the empty eye-socket. He put his 
hand in his vest-pocket for an instant, then felt 
again where the pearl had been, first with one 
finger, then another. 

* ' Strange , ' ' they heard him murmur. ' ' Strange . ' ' 
Then he whirled to face them. " The prongs that 
held the pearl are unbent and unbroken ! They 
are exactly as they were when they gripped the 
jewel ! Yet it is gone I " 

" I want to search you, Ching ! " There was no 
mistaking the threat in Captain Richards's tone 
this time. 

Calmly, disdainfully, the Mongolian raised his 
arms and stood ready. Richards explored every 
thread of his clothing. There was no doubt he had 
done similar things before ; not a pin could have 
escaped him. He stepped back with a muttered 
curse of bafflement. 

" Go through me, too." It was a snarl from 
Joslyn ; the snarl of a man whose nerves are 
raw. 

No second invitation was needed. Thornley 
Colton stood leaning against the table, his back 
toward the golden devils. He idly swished his 



TEE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 323 



cane and apparently watched every move. Wilson 
was searched — and there was nothing. 

" The thief who had brains and nerve enough to 
commit that theft would certainly know enough 
not to have the pearl in his clothing/ ' observed 
Colton, quietly. 

" It's in the room here, then," growled the loser 
of the pearl, pacing the floor. " I'll tear it apart 1 
That jewel was worth sixty-five thousand ! " 

" You haven't searched Meynerd's clothes yet. 
Every one in the room had a chance to secrete it 
there — temporarily," suggested Colton. 

The captain's face went white, and he shuddered 
as his eyes went to the body of the man whose 
death had been caused by the thing of gold he had 
brought into the room. " I'm not a ghoul," he 
choked. " The police can attend to that part of it." 

" I think I hear them coming now ; the tread 
is unmistakable." The problemist took a firmer 
grip on his cane with the hand that was not in his 
pocket. " They can mess things as badly as they 
want to now ; I've finished." He took a step 
toward the door, then turned to face them — the 
captain, the physician, who had not spoken for 
minutes, Joslyn, Wilson, and the silent Chinese. 
" If you'll bring the Seven Devils to my house at 
six-thirty this evening, captain, I will show you 
the pearl, and handcuff the man who killed Meynerd!" 
Another step, and he halted again. " All of you 
must come, for only the guilty one will want to stay 
away. All, especially Ching Li Chu 1 " 

III. 

Guided by the touch of Sydney Thames's sleeve 
against his, the blind man made his way through 
the crowd of curious, idle persons, whom the sight 



324 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



of a policeman entering a building always attracts 
in New York. From the precinct station around 
the corner had come two uniformed men, and two 
detectives on the run, to answer the murder-call 
that had gone out. Colton and his secretary had 
met them coming up the stairs, and the problemist 
had given curt nods to their gruff greetings. Nearly 
every detective in the city knew the blind man ; 
and he knew all of them by the sound of their 
voices, just as he knew the voices of a thousand 
other men. A hundred times his abilities had made 
their efforts look ridiculous, and scores of the city- 
paid sleuths refused to believe that he was blind. 
Nor did any one in the morbid crowd that opened 
before him suspect that the slight touch of cloth 
against cloth was guiding him in the darkness that 
had been his since birth. 

Leaning back in the soft cushions of the tonneau, 
Thornley Colton lighted a cigarette and took several 
deep puffs. The machine had started without 
orders, as it always did when there was any one 
around who might hear. For several blocks they 
went in silence ; then Colton leaned forward. 

" Osmuhn's, Fifth Avenue, Michael," he directed. 

" A jewellery shop ? " asked Sydney Thames, in 
surprise. 

" Yes. I am going to make sure of every 
property for the last scene. There can't be a chance 
of failure ! " There was an ominous ring in his 
voice. 

" You speak as though you knew the murderer 
and the thief ! " cried Thames, in amazement. '"I 
don't see " 

" You do see ! " interrupted the blind man, with 
unconscious sharpness. " Like the average person, 
you see too much. To any one with perfect eyes 
the whole thing is a jumble, for the murder of 



TEE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 



325 



Meynerd was planned — devilishly planned — to make 
possible the one minute of hopeless confusion 
necessary to steal the jewel. The eyes of the men 
in that room could see but one thing, then — the 
mocker of the devils. Nothing could have drawn 
their gaze from Meynerd I That is the one fault of 
eyes. In great crises they numb every other 
sense ! " 

" But if you know the murderer, why not arrest 
him at once ? " asked Sydney, his brain trying to 
fix upon the one man who could be guilty. 

" Because I'm not a policeman. The arrest of 
the guilty person is always secondary, with me, to 
the complete solving of a problem. A crime-puzzle 
is never solved until the guilt of the prisoner is 
established beyond all question. No, Sydney, I'm 
not a detective, for a detective arrests, and then 
tries to fix the guilt. I fix the guilt first. That is 
the problem in this case ! " 

" Joslyn and Wilson certainly acted queer," 
mused Sydney. " The Chinese, too, seemed 
strange." A new thought flashed to his mind. 
" There is something Oriental about that murder ! " 
he exclaimed, suddenly. " A dart, and a poison 
which could act like that I" 

Colton nodded as he nicked his cigarette into the 
street. " Devilishly Oriental, Sydney," he said, 
quietly. 

" Ching Ii Chu ! " gasped Sydney. " He " 

" Is secretary of a foreign legation, and therefore 
immune from arrest. Also, I think he could prove 
absolutely that he was standing in such a position 
that he could not have shot the poisoned dart at 
Meynerd ! " 

The machine swung into the curb before the shop 
of Osmuhn & Son. Colton alighted and hurried 
into the shop, followed by Sydney, He knew every 



326 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



step here, for he had learned them in the days 
when the problem of the Thousand Facets of Fire 
had interested him. 

The elder Osmuhn came forward with a smile of 
welcome and extended hand. Colton swung his 
slim stick under his left arm and extended his left 
hand ; the other had been in his pocket since they 
had left the room in the Wanderers' Club. 

" I want to get an imitation pearl the size of this 
finger-tip, with small holes drilled in the back at 
exactly these distances apart." He drew his right 
hand from his pocket, and Thames saw that his 
right index-finger was smudged with ink, and on 
the middle finger were four dots of black, at equal 
distances around the finger-tip. " A bit of ink from 
my fountain^ pen on the four prongs, then I got the 
marks, to tell me where the holes had been, when I 
poked my middle finger into the eye-socket," he 
explained to his secretary. 

" Come into my office," requested Osmuhn. 
" We have some imitation gems that we use merely 
to show sizes. They wouldn't fool an expert for a 
minute." 

" I don't want them to," Thornley Colton smiled, 
faintly. " I only want him to feel the gem." 

" Ah, another of your problems." Osmuhn pulled 
open a velvet-fined drawer. " Hold out your 
finger, please." He adjusted a small caliper over 
the tip, and with a smaller one measured the 
distances between the dots. " How soon do you 
want it % " he asked, when he had made several 
cabalistic notes on his small desk pad. 

" As soon as possible." 

" In two hours, then." 

Colton nodded and hurried out. 

" Police headquarters," he ordered, when the 
tonneau-door had clicked shut behind Sydney. 



TEE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 327 



" So soon ? " asked the secretary, in wonder- 
ment. 

" Griffith and Jensen, the two detectives we 
passed on the stairs, are, perhaps, the most dull- 
witted in New York. Naturally they'd be on hand 
in a case like this. The thing will be bungled 
hopelessly if I let them have their way. After they 
have been shown the facts I gathered " — a grim 
smile hovered on his hps for a second — " they'll 
have every one in the room under arrest, even 
Captain Richards. I want them all — all — at my 
house to-night." 

Thames knew the futility of further questions. 
Colton would do the thing in his own way, and 
explain when the time came. So they rode in 
silence to the big building that housed the central 
departments of the big force. 

" While I'm inside, Sydney, call up Shrimp and 
tell him to get an inch auger and the most powerful 
pocket tubular flash-light he can buy." 

" An auger and a flash-light ? " repeated the 
secretary. 

" More scenery," explained the blind man, 
laconically. " If I had been in the room when the 
murder was committed, my lack of eyes would 
have enabled me to detect the murderer-thief in 
the very act. Now I must carefully work on his 
nerves until I have the confession. And I'll do it ! " 
Again there was the ominous ring in his voice that 
Sydney had noticed every time the blind man spoke 
of the murderer. 

With a curt nod of emphasis, Colton turned on 
his heel and walked briskly into headquarters, 
unerringly finding his way through the corridors 
he had travelled many times before. 

There was no doubt of The Fee's delight when 
Sydney Thames gave him the strange order. " Gee 1 



328 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



Anoder case ! " came his squeal of joy over the wire. 
" An' the arm I got broke in the gilded-glove thing 
is all right. You bet I'll get 'em ! " 

Sydney smiled as he rang off. Nothing pleased 
the freckle-faced, blue-eyed boy, with the slightly- 
twisted nose, who had become a member of the 
Colton household at the conclusion of a particularly 
baffling murder case, like participation in one of the 
blind man's problems. But since the affair of the 
gilded glove, Colton had been careful to keep the 
irrepressible youngster out of all harm's way. 

For half-an-hour Sydney sat in the automobile 
and puzzled over the theft and the murder, the use 
of the imitation eye, the request for an auger and a 
flash-light. Then Colton came out of headquarters. 

" One more stop," he said, as the car glided away 
from the curb. " Five o'clock," he announced, as 
his fingers touched the face of the crystalless watch 
in his pocket. " Just time for the call, a hurried 
bite, and then the denouement." He leaned for- 
ward to speak to the driver. " The Waldorf," was 
the order he gave. 

At the big desk of the famous hotel, Colton's 
low-voiced inquiry brought an involuntary 
ejaculation of amazement from Sydney Thames. 
The blind man had asked for the Chinese 
ambassador. 

" Not here ! " declared the man at the desk 
with a positiveness that only hotel-clerks can 
assume when they are lying. 

" Tell him I'd like to see him in regard to the 
Seven Devils of Sin." Colton's voice was quiet and 
even, but there was something in it that commanded 
respect — and got it. 

" I'll see ! " The clerk turned to the house 
switchboard, and a few minutes later Thames and 
the blind man were being ushered to the suite of 



THE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 329 



the diplomat. The ambassador, unlike his secretary, 
who had worn clothes of the latest cut, was dressed 
in robes rich with embroidery. He looked at them 
inquiringly as they entered, and the man at his 
side bowed deeply. 

" His excellency bids you welcome," the 
interpreter said, in precise English. 

" I came to tell you that the eye of the Seven 
Devils has been stolen, and one of my countrymen 
murdered to make the theft possible," Colton said, 
without preamble or preface. 

The interpreter might have been a graven image 
for all the expression that came to his face. He 
bowed again, and spoke in Chinese to the ambas- 
sador. When the diplomat had answered him, he 
spoke again to Colton. 

" His excellency says that the thing of which you 
speak is impossible. The devils would not allow 
it. The eye of the Seven Devils of Sin disappears 
for a week every hundred years, and has done so 
for centuries at the Yunling temple." 

" Ah ! " There was a note of quiet satisfaction 
in the problemist's voice as though sudden light 
had been thrown on an obscure point. " How did 
his excellency know where the devils were ? " he 
asked, gravely. 

For several minutes the two Chinese talked. 
Colton stood in the middle of the floor, idly switching 
his trouser-leg with his slim stick, apparently 
paying no attention to the two Chinese. But Sydney 
Thames knew that the keen ears of the blind man 
were taking in every word ; for he knew that the 
problemist understood the language perfectly ! 
What were the two Mongolians talking about ? 
Why the discussion before such a simple question 
could be answered ? 

Then the interpreter spoke. " The gods decreed 



330 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



that his excellency should know the exact place 
and the hour at which it would be ready," he said, 
solemnly. " The devils stirred to anger the people 
of Chingtu against the white rogue who so cleverly 
outwitted the Yunling mountain men. But the 
gods found him, after months had passed, so the 
anger of the devils might be appeased and the 
people made content." 
" Thank you." 

Sydney Thames thought he detected a dryness 
in the words, but the look on the blind man's face 
as he left the room augured ill for some one. 
' "I can't see how apparently intelligent men can 
believe such rot ! " declared Sydney, impatiently. 

" The undeviating view-point, Sydney, the 
undeviating view-point. That religion has been 
ingrained for centuries and tens of centuries. No 
Western knowledge can ever change it." A peculiar 
smile came to his lips. " They never consider the 
incongruity of the gods helping them find devils — 
no more than they would consider a human life 
beside that thing of gold we left on the table at the 
club." 

Thames tried to read the expression on the 
blind man's face ; but there was no expression. 
Was the Chinese the murderer ? Then what could 
the problemist do alone ? What had been the 
object of those apparently irrelevant questions ? 
And why had Colton pretended he knew no Chinese. 

" One thing more, Sydney." The problemist 
stopped beside the operator's desk at the telephone- 
booths. " Call up the club and tell the president 
that I'll contribute enough to have that upper 
hall re-decorated. Tell him that the workmen 
will be there to-night. It's about time it was 
fixed." 

Sydney asked no questions this time. He 



THE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 331 



merely obeyed the order. During the hurried, silent 
meal that followed, he was all at sixes and sevens, 
and his brain fairly reeled as the questions raced, 
shuttlelike, through his mind. The Chinese had 
known the exact hour the thing would be unpacked 
at the Wanderers' Club. The secretary had 
virtually threatened Meynerd with death. Yet 
Colton had said Ching la Chu had not been in a 
position to shoot the poisoned dart. Who had been 
in the right position, and how did the blind man 
know ? He had not asked the positions of the men. 
There were Wilson and Joslyn. What of them ? 
He remembered stories he had heard of the men. 
Joslyn was an absinthe-drinker, supposed to have an 
independent income. But what was the source of 
that income ? Sydney had never heard. Wilson 
was noted for his temper — but the crime was not 
that of a man with temper. It was cold-blooded, 
devilish. 

" Six o'clock." Colton paid his check and hurried 
down the winding aisle of tables, his brain uncon- 
sciously counting the steps it had registered when 
he entered. " Get me a paper, Sydney," he asked, 
when they were on the side-walk once more. 

Sydney hailed a boy and bought one. At the 
first sight of the black headlines he gasped aloud. 

" They've arrested Nesu ! " he cried. " The 
two detectives took him to headquarters I " 

He saw again the quiet little Jap ; the one man 
he had never suspected ! Colton had said that the 
murder was devilishly Oriental ; he had said that 
the Chinese had not committed it. The Japanese 
was the guilty one ! He must have been standing 
at the side of the table opposite Meynerd, for Sydney 
had seen the cotton tufts he had dropped. And 
the police had beaten the blind man ; they had 
gotten ahead of the problemist who had scorned 



332 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



them so often. Sydney could see them laughing 
up their sleeves at the man he loved. 

" It's a shame, Thorn ! " he choked. 

" It is," admitted Colton, quietly. " But better 
a live prisoner than a dead freeman. I asked the 
chief to arrest Nesu, for he would have been the 
next victim of the poisoned dart ! " 

" The next " began Sydney, dully ; but 

Colton did not let him finish. 

" Yes, but we haven't time to discuss it now. 
Run up to Osmuhn's, and get the fake pearl. I'll 
take the car, and you can come home in the subway. 
There's a little job Shrimp and I have to do." 

Once more Thames silently did as he was told, 
and when he got back to the old-fashioned, brown- 
stone house in the upper eighties, he found the 
blind man carefully studying two deep scratches in 
the polished top of the library table. 

" All right, Shrimp," called Colton, without 
raising his head. 

Thames looked around, but could see no sign of 
the boy ; he was not in the hall, nor in the music- 
room. He opened his Hps for the question, then 
the electric front-door bell tinkled its announce- 
ment. 

" The jewel ! Quick ! " Sydney Thames thrust 
the imitation pearl into Colton's hand. For a 
second the blind man rubbed it between his flexible 
fingers. With a nod of satisfaction he dropped it 
carelessly into his lower vest-pocket, and was 
sitting on the table, feet dangling, smoking a 
cigarette, when the servant entered to announce 
the four men. 

Captain Richards came first, and in his arms, 
held as carefully as though it were fragile glass, 
was the Seven Devils. He grunted in relief as he 
set it down on the table and mopped his sweat- 



TEE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 333 

beaded forehead. Ching Li Chu, who had been at 
his heels, remained standing, straight and rigid, 
beside the thing of gold on the table. Joslyn, who 
could not seem to keep his twitching fingers still, 
flopped into a chair without even a grunt of greeting. 
Wilson seemed strangely cool, and calmly chewed 
an unlighted cigar as he shook hands with the blind 
man and his secretary. 

" No trouble getting us all here together," he 
grinned. " Not one of us has dared leave the 
other's sight all afternoon. Sat like bumps on a log 
glaring at each other, and trying to figure which 
of us was a murderer." 

' ' For God's sake, get it over with ! " Joslyn 
licked his dry hps with his tongue, and his voice 
was shaky. The police were going to arrest all 
of us until their brains got untangled, and they 
took the right one. What d'ye want us here for, 
anyway ? " he demanded. 

" To show you the eye of the Seven Devils," 
Colton said, quietly. He moved the golden image 
along the table, and carefully placed it in the 
centre, facing the five chairs that were drawn up 
against the wall. The blind man was very careful 
of the placing, and his secretary knew that he 
was putting it exactly over the scratches. Why ? 

" I told you not to drink so much absinthe this 
afternoon, Joslyn," put in the captain, impatiently. 
" Your nerves are all gone." He spoke to the 
problemist. "Are you really going to find the 
eye ? " he asked, and there was a note of dis- 
belief in his voice that Sydney Thames instantly 
resented. 

A nod was Colton's only answer. 

Richards shook his head doubtfully. " Where 
that infernal Jap could have hidden the thing is 
beyond me. We literally tore the room to pieces, 



334 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



and picked the cotton apart, tuft by tuft." His 
voice changed suddenly. " Did you find it ? " he 
demanded. 

The blind man straightened up. " Take seats," 
he invited, for he had apparently not even heard 
the question. " You, too, Ching ; the devils 
won't get away." 

" The ambassador said that I must guard them," 
replied the Chinese, simply. 

" I expected he would," declared Colton. " I 
saw him for a few minutes this afternoon." 
; " You did ! " The exclamation came from Cap- 
tain Richards. 

" Yes. I'd like to speak to you a few minutes 
in private, if the others will excuse us $ " he turned 
to them, apologetically. 

" Long as you like," granted Wilson, lightly. 

" Have it over with ! " snarled Joslyn. 

Colton put his hand on the captain's shoulder 
and drew him to a far corner of the room. For 
several minutes they conversed in earnest whispers. 
The blind man's back was toward the seated men, 
but they could see him making gestures of emphasis 
with the hand that was not resting on the captain's 
arm. 

The captain nodded emphatically, and they 
returned to the others. His face was grave, unread- 
able, but Sydney Thames saw a look of satisfaction 
gleaming in his eyes. So the blind man had con- 
vinced him that the pearl would be recovered ! 

They were all seated now, even the Chinese. 
Colton leaned against the table beside the seven 
golden devils, and faced them. His finger-tips 
felt of his crystalless watch. 

" Ten minutes of seven," he said. " At seven 
o'clock the jewel will be returned. Seven has been 
a mystic number for centuries." 



THE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 335 



Wilson laughed shortly. "You're worse than 
the Chinese, Colton," he accused. 
" Rot ! " growled Joslyn. 

u You know that seven is the number sacred to 
our devils ? " asked the Chinese, gravely. 

An inclination of the blind man's head was his 
only answer. Silence came. The minutes slowly 
ticked past. As time went the men again felt the 
sinister influence of the thing of gold before them ; 
just as the blind man had intended they should. 
Joslyn could not keep his twitching hands still. 
Wilson bit through his cigar and muttered a curse 
as it fell to the floor. Even Captain Richards 
nervously tapped his vest-front with his fingers. 
Sydney Thames shifted uncomfortably. What was 
going to happen ? Was this merely another of the 
irrelevant, apparently senseless things ? — like the 
others of the afternoon. 

Colton's voice, low, solemn, broke the stillness. 
" The murderer of Meynerd can never receive his 
full punishment on this earth. He has murdered 
thousands I " Every man straightened in his chair. 
" For years he has lived on the blood of innocent 
women and children, and for years I have waited 
this opportunity. Thank God it has come I " 

From the lower hall came the first stroke of seven. 
The blind man stood facing them, hands resting 
lightly on the table at his sides. The mellow note 
of the second stroke came. Unconsciously each 
man's muscles tightened for something — they knew 
not what. Week-long seconds passed before the 
gong sounded the third time. Still the blind man 
did not move. He stood there as rigid as the 
hideous, eyeless thing of gold beside him. 

" Do not move ! " 

With the snapped-out order came darkness, 
black, impenetrable. An indrawn breath sounded 



336 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



hissingly, sucked in through tight, clenched 
teeth. 

Again the clock sounded. From over their head, 
behind them, came a single shaft of soft, white light. 
In the small circle of brightness the face of the 
Seven Devils leered at them. And over the squat, 
wide-nostriled nose the single eye of pearl, perfect, 
flawless, gleamed with its spark-red heart ! 

An animal-like snarl broke the silence. Sydney 
Thames felt the sweeping rush of a body past his 
chair ; heard body meet body in struggle. He 
knew one was the blind man. The other 

He made a move to rise and snap on the lights. 

Some subtle fifth sense of the blind man seemed 
to tell him the very thought in his secretary's mind. 

" Stay where you are ! " came his command. 
" Don't touch the lights ! " 

Came a crash of a f ailing body. 

The blind man's voice cut the blackness. " You 
would, eh ! " He followed in with a half-dozen 
words in Chinese. In the tone was some terrible 
accusation, and they seemed to goad the other to 
madness. 

" Your devilish Oriental poisons will never kill 
another ! " There was not even a catch in the 
blind man's breath ; but the men who could not 
move a muscle heard the sobbing gasps of the 
other. Suddenly came silence. Then two sharp 
clicks of snapped handcuffs. 

And as though the clicks had been a signal, the 
lights came, and with them the voice of Thornley 
Colton, quietly triumphant : 

" The murder of Kalph Meynerd will at last bring 
you the death you have deserved so long, Captain 
Richards! Yes, the pearl you have been assuring 
yourself you still had in your pocket is an imitation. 
I took the real eye from you while we were talking 



TEE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 337 



in the corner. My fingers might make me a 
successful pickpocket." 

He turned to face the doorway, and there the 
dazed Sydney Thames saw the wide-eyed Fee. 
Behind him were two stalwart detectives. 

" The prisoner I promised your chief," Colton 
said, shortly. 

They came forward and jerked the cursing man 
to his feet. " One minute ! " commanded Colton. 
He faced the Chinese. " The Seven Devils was 
stolen from your temple. It is yours. Take it." 

" Damn you ! " shrieked Richards. " You " 

For a silent second Colton's eyes seemed to stare 
at him, then his eyes dropped. 

" Take it to its true owners," repeated Colton. 
" But first, see ! " He went to the golden thing 
on the table. One hand, held cuplike, under the 
eye. A finger touched the toe of one of the figures. 
The eye dropped to his hand ! " The true secret of 
the image," he said, quietly. " The prongs, by 
some method of a forgotten genius, open by the 
pressure of one of the toes. That is how it was 
stolen in the instant you could see nothing but 
the dead man before you ! " 

IV. 

An alcohol-soaked bandage around his eyes to 
ease the splitting headache the loss of four hours of 
sleep in the afternoon had caused, Thornley Colton 
sat in the darkened music-room. Hours before, the 
hand-cuffed Captain Richards had been led away, 
cursing, raving, blaspheming. The table in the 
library where had been the wonderful Seven Devils 
of Sin, was empty now, but in a room at the Waldorf 
four sleepless Chinese guarded the sacred thing 
with their lives ; praying alternately to it and to 

Y 



338 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



their gods in thanks. Under the waters of the 
Pacific had already sped the news that the True 
Eye would again look from the altar of the Yunling 
monastery. The Chinese ambassador had come 
personally to thank Colton. He had promised the 
blind man honours, decorations, and Thornley 
Colton had smiled them aside. 

" A curious crime ; that of committing a murder 
to steal the thing he already owned % " The blind 
man repeated the question Sydney Thames had 
asked minutes before. " Yes, it was a curious 
crime, Sydney. But Richards knew that he was 
dealing with a curious people ; he had dealt with 
them for thirty years. He understood perfectly 
that a Chinese who knew the legend regarding the 
impossibility of theft would not deviate a hair's 
breadth from his century-old ideas. The devils 
would not let it be done ; therefore it could not be 
done. The disappearance of the eye — coupled with 
the century vanishings which, of course, the captain 
knew all about — would only make the Chinese 
more anxious to get the image. It would prove 
to his peculiar mind that the devils had not lost 
their powers in the years they had been gone. You 
heard him raise the price. You saw Richards's 
clever acting then ; though he must have known 
that Ching couldn't be found guilty of the murder. 
He would have seen to it that at the time of the 
killing the Chinese was in the wrong position to 
shoot the dart. He was wise enough to know that 
police suspicion would be immediately directed 
toward the Mongolian, but it was no part of his game 
to have him arrested. The others could have 
sworn Ching could not have committed the crime. 

"The reason for it all is very simple — money. 
Richards, temple-looter for years, knew that this 
was his last game, No collector would have given 



THE EYE OF THE SEVEN DEVILS 339 

him more than a hundred thousand, and that 
would have included the eye. He could not have 
substituted a gem that would deceive an expert. 
And by murdering in such a way as to make the 
Chinese think it was the work of the devils, he could 
have sold the image to the Chinese government 
for two hundred thousand without the eye! They 
would have staked their lives on the pearl re-appear- 
ing in some supernatural manner the minute the 
thing was restored to the monastery. And by 
killing Meynerd, Richards would gain the eye ; an 
extra sixty-five thousand dollars. That was the 
price of the boy's life. It was Richards, too, who 
sold the jade god that caused the Boxer trouble ; 
that cost the lives of a thousand innocent women 
and children, and lives of ten thousand men to net 
him twenty-five thousand dollars ! " 

" He did that ? " gasped Sydney, horror in his 
tone. 

" Yes. He stole it and laid the blame on a white 
missionary to save his own worthless hide. That 
caused the first massacre. How he aroused the 
people of Chingtu over the Seven Devils I don't know, 
but he had been in China long enough to learn all 
of the underground methods. He must have 
stayed there months to get the people in a proper 
spirit to make the government willing to go to any 
lengths to prevent an insurrection. Then he picked 
New York for the final scene. He joined the 
Wanderers' years ago, and no one knew that his 
money came from the loot of temples and the blood 
of massacred women and children. I did, but I 
could do nothing but wait. 

" See how carefully he picked his audience. 
Meynerd, drunken kid, could be depended upon to 
mock the serious Chinese. Joslyn, whose nerves 
were shattered by absinthe, would surely act sus- 



340 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



piciously because of his very nervousness. Then 
Wilson to add fuel. And the Chinese ! The scene 
was laid just as he has probably laid dozens of 
others. 

" How he learned the secret of the devils' eye I 
don't know, nor care. Perhaps he learned it 
accidentally. Perhaps he picked it up in some 
obscure corner of the kingdom during his years of 
wandering. But he never thought that my super- 
sensitive finger-tips would discover it, though his 
bringing of Nesu to the window was done so that he 
could get into a position where he could watch me. 
But I had found the thing in an instant, and while 
he watched I carefully kept away from it. The 
minute my finger felt the unbent prongs I knew 
they must have opened, and the toes would be the 
most ingenious place for the manipulator of 
them. 

" It was he who notified the Chinese ambassador 
the exact hour he would unpack the image. I 
wanted to make sure of that, so I went to the 
Waldorf. I knew the thing was important enough 
to bring the diplomat all the way from Washington, 
though I knew, too, as Richards did, that a secretary 
would make the first visit." 

" How do you know that Richards told them ? " 
asked Sydney. " Was he the 6 gods ' they spoke 
of ? " 

" The discussion between the ambassador and 
the interpreter before they answered my question 
told me that. While they spoke of the gods they 
mentioned a note sent the night before from New 
York. Of course, I was careful to conceal the fact 
that I understood Chinese, because I knew they 
would never tell any one of that. To them it was 
a decree of the gods ; and a state secret." 

" And Richards deliberately killed Meynerd to 



TEE EYE OF TEE SEVEN DEVILS 341 



make the one necessary minute of confusion ? " 
put in Sydney. 

" It didn't matter whether it was Meynerd or not. 
But luck was with him ; luck and the working out 
of the chance on which he had invited Meynerd 
as one of the party. The poisoned dart, in its short 
glass-tube, was in his handkerchief. I also took 
that from the pocket of his frock-coat when we talked 
in the library, and in it were fine glass particles. 
He hadn't even thought it necessary to get rid of 
the thing. A simple crushing of the tube in his 
handkerchief when a breath had sent the dart on 
its journey of death, the dropping of the pieces 
into Joslyn's drink, where eyes would never have 
seen them, was the work of an instant. Of course, 
if Joslyn hadn't had the frapped drink Richards 
needed as a hiding-place, the captain would have 
ordered one for himself. But there was one break 
in the programme. The Jap saw the theft of the 
jewel." 

" How did you know that ? " 

Colton smiled grimly. " The keyboard of silence 
again. When I shook hands my index-finger on 
the Jap's wrist told me that his heart was pounding 
like a trip hammer. A mere death would never 
have excited an Oriental like that. For a time I 
suspected that he had shot the poisoned dart, and 
the captain had stolen the jewel. But the glass in 
the ice instead of the cotton, and the captain's 
gentle manner toward him, proved that they were 
not working together. If they had been accomplices 
Richards would have acted harshly to avert sus- 
picion. He was trying to convince the Jap that 
silence would mean a share of the theft. But I 
knew Richards wasn't the kind to divide, or pay 
blackmail. The poisoned dart was too easy. There 
wasn't a chance to end the Jap's life in the room, 



342 



THE EIGHTH PROBLEM 



for I knew the captain would have hardly dared 
bring two darts and tubes. There was always a 
possibility of his being searched by the police. At 
the first opportunity outside, though, puff ! A 
dead Japanese who would tell no tales. Therefore 
I had the police arrest Nesu because Captain 
Richards probably had another one of his devilish 
darts somewhere around the club." 

" But the pearl ? " demanded Sydney. " Why 
didn't you search Richards before we left that 
room 1 " 

" Do you think he would have taken such pains 
to hide the broken tube and then have kept the 
pearl ? " asked Colton, dryly. " He hid the gem 
in a previously picked-out place when he left the 
room to call me on the telephone. Suppose I had 
arrested him ; suppose we had torn the club apart 
and found the jewel. Would Captain Richards have 
gone to the chair for murder ? Not with an 
American jury, and the mass of other suspicious 
things that would make more than a ' reasonable 
doubt ' of his guilt. 

" So I arranged to-night's affair for a denouement. 
I knew his nerves weren't steel, for he had shown 
that when I told him to search the body of the 
man he had killed. That was a little too much 
even for him. Then I got the 'eye' while I pre- 
tended to tell him of a plan I had to make Joslyn 
confess. I substituted the fake pearl that would 
feel just the same in the darkness, because the 
whole thing depended on his having no premature 
suspicion. My announcement that workmen would 
be on hand to re-decorate the upper hall of the club, 
the place he must have chosen because of its near- 
ness, forced him to take the pearl from its hiding- 
place to-night. He had to bring it here because 
I timed the thing so that he would have no chance 



THE EYE OP THE SEVEN DEVILS 343 



to find another hiding-place. During the afternoon 
he probably saw to it that Joslyn kept on drinking 
absinthe, though Wilson's drinks only seemed to 
straighten out his nerves. 

" It was simple, very simple, but I have waited 
years for the opportunity ; ever since I heard the 
true story of the Boxer uprising from the lips of a 
dying coolie who had helped to steal the jade god. 
I knew my chance would come some day, and the 
cocksure attitude I always took when Captain 
Richards was around, I knew would make Captain 
Richards welcome the opportunity to amuse himself 
by watching me try to solve a puzzle. That Chinese 
sentence I used there in the darkness told him for 
the first time that I knew all about him, and he 
realized then that I had been waiting for the chance 
his egotism had brought me." 

Sydney Thames's Hps curved in a superior smile. 
" And the Chinese can only see it as the working- 
out of the gods' decree," he murmured. 

The blind man leaned back in his chair and blew 
a thoughtful smoke ring toward the ceiling. When 
he spoke his voice was low, almost reverent. " A 
half-century ago the thing was stolen by a young 
priest who did not know the secret that had been 
carefully guarded by the highest priests for cen- 
turies. Fifty years later it passes into the hand 
of a white man, and is brought thousands of miles 
to New York. A man is killed, another is in a 
prison-cell, and the devils are returned by one who 
is blind. The working of the gods ? I wonder, 
Sydney, I wonder." 



THE END.